Blue Bomber Report Record: 7–11–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Blue thinking 'good' thoughts

In training camp, every team figures it has Grey Cup potential

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Bombers head coach Tim Burke emerges from a huddle during practice at Investors Group Field, Sunday.

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Bombers head coach Tim Burke emerges from a huddle during practice at Investors Group Field, Sunday. Photo Store

It is the kind of conversation that happens often during the monotony of a CFL training camp.

Players are sharing a meal or in a break during meetings and -- with nothing to serve as a comparison -- often break into discussions about the talent on their squad. And, invariably, that leads to this question:

"How good can this team be?"

(Caution: the following paragraphs are filled with unbridled optimism. Reader discretion is advised).

"I think we can be really good," said receiver Chris Matthews. "I was talking to Terrence Edwards about it (Saturday) night and I asked him, 'How does it feel when you come in during the off-season and you're practising the way we are? How does it turn out?' He said the last time he had that his team in college (Georgia) won the (SEC) championship.

"So I told him I was getting that feeling and others are, too. Hopefully we can put that feeling into action. It's the speed of our game, the defence and how they're working and how we're grasping the concepts. The rookies have picked it up... everything is looking fluid. I can't wait to see what's going to happen in this preseason game.

'We've got it'

"I feel like we've got it," added Matthews. "I feel like we have the players, the coaches... we have it all. This year, we're going to turn some heads. I really believe so."

Now, that is an opinion not shared by many across the Canadian Football League. Most pundits have picked the Bombers to miss the playoffs again and Bodog.ca has them as 10-1 long shots to win the Grey Cup.

So which team will the Bombers more closely resemble in 2013 -- the one that lost in the Grey Cup in 2011 or the one that fell to 6-12 a year ago?

"We've got to put all the parts together and coach Burke has been preaching that because when we put all of that together, we're a very good team," said veteran cornerback Jovon Johnson. "But when guys go out and play for themselves and are individuals out on the field, you can see what happens.

"If we jell early, I think we can be a lot better than we were in 2011. That 2011 team fooled around and had fun. We played carefree and that's the reason we had success. If this team can duplicate that, I think we can better."

It's Johnson's belief that the Bombers will only be as good as their men in the trenches and if the offensive line is opening holes and keeping the quarterback upright -- with the D-line flying around creating havoc -- then 2013 can represent a turnaround.

Then again, those are some pretty big "ifs," given what unfolded last season. Still, where Matthews insisted he flushed 2012 from his memory banks, Johnson used it as motivation.

"My whole workout regimen was focussed on how I could get better as a player," said Johnson. "I'm going into this season more determined than ever to be successful and try to push and lead these young guys. I want to let them know that I'm a veteran in every sense and I'm here to help them out no matter what my role is."

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

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 10, 2013 C2

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