Blue Bomber Report Record: 7–11–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Blue special teams coup

Snapping up Dickenson may be Mack's best move -- and it's bringing change

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Special teams coach Craig Dickenson left the Roughriders for balanced life.

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Special teams coach Craig Dickenson left the Roughriders for balanced life.

Quick -- name the biggest free agent signing of the Joe Mack era.

We kid.

It's a trick question, of course, because the Winnipeg Blue Bombers GM regards free agent signings the same way Lindsay Lohan regards rehab clinics -- a place to go when there is positively no where else to go.

But if you were going to make a list, you could make a case the biggest free agent coup of the Mack era isn't a player signing at all, but rather last winter's wrangling by Mack and head coach Tim Burke of Craig Dickenson as the Bombers new special-teams guru.

And you don't have to take our word for it -- here's how Bombers boss Tim Burke described Dickenson on Thursday.

"Watching him out there, he's so detailed, he's got it thought out so well. He's got a lot of experience in the CFL and the NFL. I think he just does a great job," said Burke.

"He's the best special teams coordinator in the league. I'm not being negative toward anybody else -- because there's a lot of good coaches in the league. I just think he's head-and-shoulders above everybody."

That's high praise from a straight-talking guy who isn't known for hyperbole -- and emblematic of just what a coup the Bombers landed when they snapped up Dickenson moments after he parted ways with his previous employer, the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

After a career that included assistant jobs with the NFL's San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders and six seasons with the Stampeders, Dickenson was the special teams coordinator in Regina the past two seasons.

A passionate snowboarder and instructor at home in Montana in the off-season, Dickenson thought he had an understanding when he originally took the Riders job in 2011 that he would not be in Regina for a lot of the off-season while he worked his other passion in life on the slopes.

But things changed in Regina after Dickenson got hired and the Riders said they wanted him around more during the winter. Dickenson told them it was a "deal breaker" and left.

Offers for his services poured in from teams in Canada and the U.S., but Dickenson -- whose brother, Dave, is the offensive co-ordinator in Calgary -- chose the Bombers.

"There was opportunities all over the place," said Dickenson. "But I love the CFL and I love the people up here. I love the calibre of athlete we get up here. And I really like coach Burke and what he brings to the table.

"I felt like when he tells you something, you know you're going to get it."

So what will Winnipeg's special teams look like under Dickenson? Well, for starters, the days of Bombers kickers and punters wearing one-bar face masks are now gone -- and not just because the CFL has banned the equipment.

"That's not going to be the way it is anymore," Dickenson laughed. "A kick team is composed of 12 players and one of those players is kicking the football, but all 12 have a responsibility to play the ball with proper leverage and make the tackle when the opportunity comes along."

The other new wrinkle this year is Dickenson not being a big fan of having a full-time player on offence or defence serving as the team's kick returner, which suggests DB Johnson's days of running-back kicks might be numbered.

paul.wiecek@freepress.mb.ca

today's training camp report C3

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 7, 2013 C1

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