December 5, 2013 Sections
Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
They are a struggling team, to be sure.
But the 2-11 Winnipeg Blue Bombers continue to remain a united team -- at least according to them.
The Bombers returned to Investors Group Field on Tuesday for the first time since what appeared to be some fissures in the team's cohesiveness opened up in a very public way in a 53-17 shellacking at the feet of the B.C. Lions on home turf Friday night.
First, it was Bombers slotback Terrence Edwards and centre Justin Sorensen getting into a heated altercation on the field late in the fourth quarter, in full view of TSN's cameras and whatever few fans still remained in the stands.
Then there were some snippy comments made by players to the media in the locker-room after the game, including defensive back Brandon Stewart's critique that his club's continuing struggles on offence mean the defence might have to do the scoring if this team is going to win any more games this year.
And finally, there was the complete disappearing act by Bombers starting QB Max Hall from the team's dressing room Friday night, with Hall bolting before the media had even been allowed into the room -- something healthy starting quarterbacks just don't do, at any level of football.
And so you had what appeared to be some cracks starting to appear publicly in the unity of a team on which the offence has struggled mightily this season while the defence has played fair to middling, sometimes even spectacularly.
But if there were cracks Friday, they'd been patched over by the time the Bombers took the field for practice Tuesday for the first time since the humiliating loss to the Lions.
Edwards, for instance, went to great lengths to downplay his altercation with Sorensen -- and even went so far as to suggest this particular edition of the Bombers might even be more united than other Bombers teams.
"It was just frustration. Justin's my man," said Edwards, "and it was hashed out before we walked off the field. No big deal... There's been less fights this year than any (other year).
"There's no issues and there haven't been any issues all year."
Edwards also said he could find no fault with Stewart's critique of the Bombers offence, especially seeing as it came after the Lions defence scored three TDs directly off turnovers and actually outscored Winnipeg's offence all by themselves.
"Nobody's mad at anybody because of how we played -- we didn't do anything to lead (the defence) to believe we could score points," said Edwards. "But we're going to keep working and go out there and give it our best and try to pull our weight and put points up."
Bombers DB Jovon Johnson said the team's defence remains supportive of the offence.
"Our offence is going to get it going," said Johnson. "They've been in situations where they managed the game and they played well for us... They're going to get it together."
Winnipeg head coach Tim Burke was also insistent that while his team has struggled with many things this season, team unity isn't one of them.
"I think they're pretty supportive. They're all friends, they're all teammates," said Burke. "It does get frustrating for the defence the last couple weeks... but you've got to be careful if you're on defence -- you go out there and have a bad game while the offence has a good game and the shoe's on the other foot."
Hall, who finally faced the media for the first time since the B.C. game after practice Tuesday, said he wouldn't blame the defence if it was frustrated with an offence that turned the ball over seven times to B.C., leading to a total of 34 of the Lions' 53 points.
"I understand the frustration and I don't think (Stewart) meant it as a personal attack," said Hall. "I understand why he's frustrated -- the offence is turning the ball over and giving up points."
Hall said he was also very frustrated with the loss -- and the fact he was pulled after the first half -- and sought comfort from his family instead of standing before the media and being accountable for a performance that included two interceptions. Mea culpa, said Hall.
"I should have been more courteous to you guys," he said. "I should have been out there, so I apologize for that. It won't happen again."
NOTES: There are new question marks on the defence heading into Saturday. Burke said defensive backs Johnson and Demond Washington both suffered ankle injuries in the B.C. game.
Neither man practised on Wednesday. Burke said Johnson is likely to be healthy in time to play this weekend, but Washington is questionable.
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 2, 2013 C6
Updated on Wednesday, October 2, 2013 at 9:03 AM CDT: