Blue Bomber Report Record: 7–11–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Burke stuck in the middle

Clowns to the left of him, jokers to the right

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Monday's feature film was part comedy and part horror, only no one was laughing and no one was scared.

Winnipeg Blue Bombers head coach Tim Burke, obviously at a loss on how to generate any urgency from his team following another blowout loss on the road in Calgary, showed clips of Friday's TSN broadcast to his team before practice Monday.

Shockingly, the Blue low-light reel didn't start with players yukking it up on the sidelines of the 44-3 loss to the Stamps. Brandon Collier -- the injured and easily-amused defensive lineman in question who was having a big laugh in the fourth quarter during the joke on the field -- was an edit mark for the coach, but he wasn't the only one.

"Obviously, I addressed that," Burke said Monday. "I showed them a video of the TSN broadcast, what they were saying at halftime, and then during the latter part of the game and said, 'This is your resumé. This is what people in the outside world are thinking about you. And so you've got to figure out how you're going to respond to that. Are you going to do that with pride or are you going to tuck your tail and run?' So, we'll see how they respond."

That it's come to this is telling on how dysfunctional things are in Bomberland and speaks volumes on how out of touch some players are to what's happening. The club is 2-9 and is riding a four-game losing streak -- the second time they've taken this Drop of Doom this season.

They haven't won a game under Burke yet, thanks to a deadly mixture of bad quarterbacking/offensive system and a porous defence (Winnipeg has been outscored 121-27 in the last three games), and there's worry things could get worse before they get better.

Professional integrity and playing for pride is now the message from the club, the last resort before looking into the CFL charter to see if the Bombers can cut costs by not making the last three road trips this season.

"It's embarrassing," continued Burke, who could use a good laugh. "I mean, (these are) professional athletes. We should act in a professional manner. You're getting paid to play as hard as you can play. We did not play as hard as we could play. That's evident. Everybody in the stands, everybody watching on TV -- we didn't play hard enough to win, and it's inexcusable."

Laughing on the sidelines during a blowout loss looks terrible and fuels the frustration in Bomber Nation, but it's not a big deal in a big-picture sense. The organization has much larger issues than a pair of backup quarterbacks sharing a chuckle, so to harp on that would be a waste of time. Joey Elliott's and Alex Brink's follow-up to the visual hiccup, however, put an exclamation point on Burke's "professionalism" plot this week.

Monday, the two pivots came up with a fairly obvious script to deflect questions about in-game inappropriateness, a QB code that even the media was able to crack afterwards.

"We'll be ready to go next week," was Elliott's repeated non-response, which was much like Brink's non-response. Seriously funny stuff, right? With comedic timing like that to fall back on, who needs a better efficiency rating?

Thankfully, not all the players were playing games with the media.

"It's an eye-opener on how things are perceived," receiver Cory Watson said of having to sit through the TSN broadcast. "No one wants to be ridiculed when you're doing something that you love and you come out here and work hard for."

All of this goes back to the Bombers being too young, too inexperienced and without a care in the world about their employment status, thanks to the reluctance of management to make any changes to the losing roster. Burke was asked if players were concerned enough about their own jobs.

"There probably isn't enough fear there," he said. "People are going to say, either they aren't talented enough or they don't care enough. We've got to prove to everybody that we are more talented and that we do care."

adam.wazny@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @wazoowazny

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 18, 2012 C4

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