Blue Bomber Report Record: 7–11–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Blue well-prepped for Attention Deficit Bowl

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Normally, there is a game within the game, the days that precede the bye week.

Truth be told, if you ask me, they should aptly rename tonight's contest the Attention Deficit Bowl, because as is often the case, football is the last thing on the minds of all the young professional players about to get six days off, and jet across North America less than 12 hours after the contest closes.

Win, lose or draw, the majority of players on CFL rosters on the bye week will escape the football environment early tomorrow morning and leave behind the scrutiny and evaluations of this world. The problem is, some players escape it before they even leave their city of employment.

After 15 years of experience with bye weeks I have come up with a formula to predict success or failure on the eve of it.

Take the average age of the players on your team, multiply that by the mental age of these same players, subtract the number of Americans flying out tomorrow morning to international destinations, and add the winning percentage of the record you currently sit at. The higher the sum between the two teams, the better chance of winning the game.

In all seriousness, though, from my first year of pro football to my last, things like training camp and bye-week schedules have gotten progressively more relaxed.

Dave Ritchie, my first coach in the CFL, used to hate the bye week, and by proxy made us almost despise it too. He was always concerned about how we would play going into one, and be even more worried about how we would play coming out of it.

To alleviate his concerns, Ritchie took it upon himself to inconvenience as many people as possible with his bye-week schedules. You would never get it more than a week ahead of time, and when you did it would change according to whether we won or lost -- in line with his whimsical nature.

At the best of times, he would schedule a couple of practices in the middle of the bye week.

At the worst of times, he would pretend it didn't exist at all, and have you practise right through it.

But these are conditions of the past. Players, these days, expect a schedule of their bye week in training camp. If you, as a coach, change that schedule, prepare to be bombarded with complaints, threats and insolence across the board.

Of all the games I've seen this franchise participate in over the last decade or so before a bye week, the urgency to get this one right is at unprecedented levels.

If the Blue Bombers win, they are halfway back out of the road trip hole they dug themselves in the first four weeks.

If they lose however, the Bombers start their bye week at 1-5, last in the CFL, and a mile from the momentum they built in a victory against Edmonton. If there was ever a game that the Bombers needed the undivided attention and focus of their players on the eve of a bye week, this is one of them.

Talking to some veterans, however, it appears this may not be as a big a challenge as in years prior.

Brady Browne, the new starting safety for the Bombers, assured me that the looming bye week is not as big a deal as it used to be.

"Usually, I would agree with that," he said. "But it snuck up on us so quickly this year, I don't think it's affecting the guys as much as other years might have. Usually, by that ninth game, guys have been talking about it (the bye week) for like two weeks."

Terrance Edwards, the elder statesman of the team, echoed those sentiments.

"It used to be, with the young guys, they were just trying to get up out of here around the bye week. But the coaching staff did a good job letting the guys know how important this game is. I really haven't heard that many guys talking about the bye this year, other than, of course, how much a ticket costs to get out of here."

So there you have it. When it comes to being dialled in tonight, this team appears primed and impervious to the dark enticements of the week off.

All they need now, is for the visiting Alouettes to be preoccupied with changing their flights to leave out of Winnipeg, and to be looking ahead to visiting family and friends over the next six days.

Doug Brown, once a hard-hitting defensive lineman and frequently a hard-hitting columnist, appears Tuesdays and game days in the Free Press.

Twitter: @DougBrown97

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 3, 2012 C4

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