December 7, 2013 Sections
Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Winnipeg Blue Bombers head coach Tim Burke says reaching the 2013 Grey Cup game in Regina in November is his goal, but the long road to get there will have to be travelled in baby steps by an organization that hasn't won a CFL championship since 1990.
"Our goal is to get to the Grey Cup and win it, but there's incremental things along the way," Burke told reporters Thursday during a national teleconference to preview the 2013 CFL season.
"And for us, the first thing we have to do is to have a culture that is a winning culture and that we have practice and preparation standards that we meet that will allow us to go to the Grey Cup.
"So it begins from the very get-go on how we begin, our preparation every day, how we practise every day. And then we take it one game at a time."
Burke said with the exception of vacancies still to be filled at one defensive-end position and weak-side linebacker, he thinks his defence is pretty much set heading into training camp.
And he said a healthy Buck Pierce and an offence that showed lots of spark during the final seven weeks of the 2012 season have him feeling a lot better about his team right now than last August when he took over the reins from a fired Paul LaPolice.
"I think we're in much better shape as a team than where we were when I took over as interim head coach," Burke said.
Burke said he also personally feels much better prepared for his job this year than he did when he first took over.
"I feel a lot more ready to be a head coach than I did last year. I've had the off-season to think about how to approach the team from a mental aspect," said Burke, adding the player fines and uptempo practices he introduced late last season will definitely be back again this season.
BOMBERS CEO Garth Buchko, who also sat in on the teleconference, said he still expects Investors Group Field to be ready in time for the first pre-season game June 12.
Buchko said an unseasonably cold spring delayed the start of landscaping and brickwork on the exterior of the building, but work has been proceeding quickly since it warmed up in recent weeks.
"As everyone in Winnipeg knows, up until two weeks ago, we still had some snow," said Buchko. "The frost is going out of the ground right now, which is imperative to plant sod and trees and those kinds of things."
Buchko said minor finishing work will likely continue throughout June, but he said the product fans will see when the Bombers host the Toronto Argonauts will look basically finished.
"All in all, once we kick off on June 12, everything from a fan perspective will be virtually 100 per cent complete, except for touch-ups and things..."
Buchko also provided a season-ticket update, saying the club is approaching 24,000 tickets sold. The new stadium will have a capacity of 33,500.
THE Bombers will have an Australian punter on the roster when the club opens rookie training camp at the end of this month.
The Bombers announced Thursday they have formally signed Tim Hutchison, a 25-year-old veteran of the Australian Football League. Bombers GM Joe Mack said the club's special-teams coach, Craig Dickenson, worked out Hutchison recently and came away impressed with his range.
"He has a very strong leg, and obviously bringing him from that far away, we wouldn't do that unless we thought he had a lot of potential," said Mack.
"He might not be ready right away, but he has such a strong leg, we thought he was worth the investment."
Burke said Hutchison will have some work to do to become CFL-ready. "He has a lot of room for improvement in terms of technique and placement of the ball...," he said.
Under the quirky CFL import/non-import rules, Hutchison qualifies as a non-import even though he's Australian -- just like Hamilton Tiger-Cats kicker Josh Bartel, who cracked the Ticats roster last season after a career in Aussie-rules football.
In addition to Hutchison, the Bombers will also have Canadian rookies Brett Cameron -- son of longtime Bombers punter Bob Cameron -- and recently drafted Billy Pavlopoulos in camp to challenge incumbent non-import Mike Renaud for the punting job.
The Bombers announced two other signings Thursday -- import offensive lineman James Carmon and import receiver Quintin McCree.
Carmon (6-7, 320, Mississippi State) is a defensive tackle who was one of the Buffalo Bills' final cuts last season. He was on the Bombers' practice roster at the end of the 2012 season. McCree (6-1, 190, Maryland) had a career season at Maryland in his senior year, catching 40 passes for 485 yards while working under Maryland offensive co-ordinator at the time-- and current Bombers offensive co-ordinator -- Gary Crowton.
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 10, 2013 C6