Blue Bomber Report Record: 7–11–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Blue crew changing things up on defence

Johnson, Stewart swapping positions

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DESPERATE times call for desperate measures and a 52-0 defeat and moving the best defender in the CFL last year to a position he's never played before professionally are compelling examples of each, respectively.

Fresh off that stinging thrashing last Sunday in Regina, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on Wednesday responded by unveiling a new-look defence that now has veteran cornerback Jovon Johnson playing at strong-side linebacker.

Head coach Tim Burke said the move was Johnson's idea, but he'd been thinking along similar lines as he looked for something to ignite a defence that has underperformed all season.

"Some of it relates to Saskatchewan, some of it is something that I've just been thinking about as we've gone along," said Burke. "So now's a pretty good time to make that change."

Johnson said he's willing to do anything at this point to right the Bombers' ship.

"At the end of the day, I'm all for whatever the team needs. And at this point, we're looking for an answer. So why not put me closer to the ball and give me an opportunity to make plays," said Johnson.

With Johnson at strong-side linebacker, the Bombers secondary now has Brandon Stewart -- who used to be the team's SAM -- at one cornerback position and rookie Demond Washington at the other corner. Jonathan Hefney and Alex Suber remain the halfbacks, as does Ian Logan at safety.

Johnson becomes the third Bomber to play the SAM position this season, joining Stewart and Hefney. The Bombers linebacker corps has underperformed as a unit and Burke said the move was in part a reflection of Stewart's struggles in that role.

Burke liked Stewart's performance at corner last season and said he's hoping the shuffle gets everybody playing to their fullest capability.

"I'm comfortable at the corner -- that's easy for me," said Stewart, welcoming the move.

Burke also said he's hoping the example Johnson is setting by volunteering for the position switch is noticed by his fellow players.

"He was CFL defensive player of the year at corner last year and he's willing to change positions and do it for the team," said Burke.

"I think that's a real positive leadership move."

Burke also expressed optimism about the play of the rookie Washington in the new secondary setup.

"You don't watch the game and say, 'Oh shoot, Demond got beat deep,'" said Burke. "He's been doing a good job... Demond's going to be one of the best players in the league before it's all over, I think."

NO TOMATOES: "The fans for the most part are very positive. There's always a couple of yahoos out there who are going to be negative and jump all over the players and jump all over the coaches... My wife and I went out (three nights) ago for dinner. And we didn't even get a rotten tomato or anything thrown at us."

-- Tim Burke on what it's like being a member of the Blue Bombers in Winnipeg these days

O-Line ailing

The right side of the Bombers offensive line is a mess right now, with tackle Jordan Taormina (stinger) and guard Steve Morley (ankle) both sitting out practice on Wednesday. Head coach Tim Burke sounded optimistic, but said only that both men are "possible" for Sunday's game. In their absence, Shannon Boatman lined up at tackle and Paul Swiston played guard on the first team Wednesday.

Hefney speaks out

"At some point, you can't just talk to me like you're my dad or you're over me. If you're a fan, you're a fan - be a fan. Love us whether we win or lose. But just don't bash us when we're losing... Because me, I will back up my guys."

-- Bombers DB Jonathan Hefney on his Twitter war of words with some disgruntled fans

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 6, 2012 C3

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