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Blue Banks on leadership

Bombers sought B.C. D-back to change culture in locker-room

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 1/2/2014 (1115 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers swung a deal to land a 34-year-old defender on Friday. And to all the eye-rolls and dismissive hand waves that came along with the move from some critics, yes, they are completely aware of the law of diminishing returns.

But five-time CFL all-star Korey Banks wasn't acquired from the B.C. Lions -- in exchange for Kito Poblah -- just so the club can squeeze a few more years out of a player whose best years may be in the rear-view mirror.

darryl dyck / the canadian press files
Newly acquired defensive back Korey Banks may be 34 years old but the Bombers believe he still has several good years left.


darryl dyck / the canadian press files Newly acquired defensive back Korey Banks may be 34 years old but the Bombers believe he still has several good years left.

mike deal / winnipeg free press files
Kito Poblah was a bust in Winnipeg.


mike deal / winnipeg free press files Kito Poblah was a bust in Winnipeg. Purchase Photo Print

No, Banks is a Bomber today in part because GM Kyle Walters and new head coach Mike O'Shea desperately need to change the culture in their locker-room. Banks will be their lead dog on defence; a man who hates to lose more than he loves to win and will help establish a daily work ethic with a young crew on defence that often lost its way in 2013.

That much was hammered home last month when the Lions put out word around the CFL Banks could be available and the veteran sat down with the Bomber brass at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala.

"What I knew about him was confirmed when we were down there: the guy's a leader," Walters said Friday. "When Mike O'Shea was hired, he got the job because he was a leader of men. Korey Banks is a leader of men. He exudes confidence and leadership. He's a winner.

"The best thing about the trade was -- and we can debate his on-field play -- is what he's going to bring to that locker-room. We need some guys to come in here and say, 'This is not acceptable. This is the way you practise. This is the way you prep, this is the way you watch film. If you guys want to be winners, follow me.' That was the primary point to making this trade.

"It's not just about height, weight and how fast they run. There's more to a team that."

Now, understandably, you will get a fairly robust argument from Banks on the 'diminishing-returns' take. He had 46 tackles, a sack, two interceptions and two fumble recoveries last season -- numbers all in line with his previous campaigns.

"Before I let somebody tell me I can't play this game no more, I'll walk away," said Banks in a conference call Friday. "If I didn't think I could play I wouldn't even sign this contract. I have as much football left as a guy that's 27 because I've had no injuries.

"You can say the production wasn't there, but you moved me to linebacker. What did you think was going to be there? I came into this league as a defensive back covering guys and then I went to linebacker. I don't mind that, but the way I was used in the defence I was a sacrificial lamb and I was fine with that because we were winning. I'm fine with it in Winnipeg as long as we're winning. If wherever you put me equates to wins, I will do it.

"Forget the stats. I have enough of those. I'm all about the winning."

But Lions GM Wally Buono has a history of setting adrift 30-somethings when he perceives a decline is around the corner. And when Banks went public recently asking for a release after the club picked up his option for 2014 -- he reportedly makes $136,000 -- but wouldn't renegotiate or grant an extension, Buono began putting out feelers.

In dealing Poblah, the Bombers moved a Canadian receiver who was been nothing but a disappointment in his three years in Winnipeg. Selected in the 2011 Supplemental Draft -- meaning the club forfeited its first-round pick in 2012 -- Poblah never morphed into the star many who scouted him had predicted he would become. He had 41 receptions for 417 yards and a TD in his second year with the Bombers, but was plagued by injuries and inconsistencies.

That has never been an issue with Banks, who has now had the considerable chip on his shoulder balloon with the trade.

Something to prove? Heck, yeah.

"This is a great fit for me," said Banks. "And even if I was released I probably would have ended up in Winnipeg, anyway, because I felt a rapport with Kyle Walters and (Mike) O'Shea that I haven't felt in years.

"This is what I do, this is what I love doing and when I feel like I can't do it any more I'm going to walk away from the game. But that time has not presented itself. I'm all in. I want to show you what I can do. I mean, that's what I've been doing my whole career anyway. I had to always prove someone wrong. I'm fine with that."

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @WFPEdTait

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