Blue Bomber Report Record: 6–3–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Burke's confidence in new QBs shoots up

CFL rookies Hall, Clement exceed coach's expectations

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WINNIPEG Blue Bombers head coach Tim Burke says he's feeling a lot better today about his football team -- and, in particular, his quarterback situation -- than he was a week ago.

"I thought our quarterbacks were really sharp. The new guys picked up the offence really well and Buck looked really good," Burke said Friday at the Winnipeg Indoor Soccer Complex after his team wrapped up the final session of their three-day mini-training camp.

"I'm very happy with where we are offensively right now... I thought we did pretty well this camp."

Burke said he likes the new -- and leaner -- Buck Pierce that he saw at camp this week and thought the two new CFL rookie QBs auditioning to back up Pierce this year -- Max Hall and Chase Clement -- progressed beyond his expectations.

"I really feel much more comfortable after mini-camp than going into mini-camp (with the quarterbacks)," Burke said. "Not that I wasn't comfortable, but now I feel a lot better...

"Seeing them in our offence throwing against CFL defences. That's the thing I thought they picked up really well. I'm kind of surprised really that they picked it up so well."

Burke said Pierce lost weight over the winter. "This off-season, he really ate healthy and tried to lose some weight so he'd be quicker in the pocket. So yeah, I think he's in tremendous shape."

On the injury front, Burke confirmed that defensive back/SAM linebacker Johnny Sears Jr. -- who was in camp this week but did not take part in drills -- is continuing to recover from off-season knee surgery and isn't expected to be ready for the start of training camp, but should be good to go sometime during it.

And Burke said safety Cauchy Muamba -- who crumpled to the field near the end of practice Friday and was still in apparent agony a half-hour later on the sideline -- suffered back spasms. Burke said the episode isn't considered to be serious.

Burke said running back Chris Garrett, who's recovering from a torn achilles tendon that cost him all of the 2012 season, rested near the end of practice after complaining of soreness.

-- -- --

Bombers defensive back Jonathan Hefney got a scare a couple of weeks ago when a female motorist from Quebec went out of control at high speed on I-95 in Forida and T-boned the vehicle Hefney was in.

"I was coming back from Florida," Hefney recalled Friday. "I was just travelling, having a good time. The lady lost control of her car, I guess. I don't know. She had a bunch of stuff in her car, so I guess she was moving from Florida back up to Canada, I think...

"We were going about 70 miles per hour," Hefney continued. "She hit my door where I was sitting at and we hit the wall and she kept on spinning and she hit the wall too."

Hefney was taken to hospital by ambulance as a precaution. "I'm good," he said. "I'm tough. Like a hockey player."

-- -- --

Much-maligned non-import receiver Jade Etienne, who has one catch in two seasons after being drafted fourth overall in 2011, turned some heads in mini-camp.

Etienne put on some weight during the off-season and made several highlight reel catches over the course of the three days. Bombers GM Joe Mack approached Etienne on the field Friday after a particularly nice catch to shake the youngster's hand and pat him on the back.

Asked after practice Friday what Etienne needs to do to make the team this year, head coach Tim Burke said he's got to cut down on mental errors.

"The main thing with Jade that I think that hurt him last year wasn't so much anything with his physical game, it was the mental game," Burke said.

"He would blow an assignment here and there and our offence depends on our receivers being in the right place at the right time... And I didn't see that in him in this mini-camp.

"I think he's growing up as a person and I think he's got a pretty good shot."

paul.wiecek@freepress.mb.ca

 

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 27, 2013 C4

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