Blue Bomber Report Record: 7–11–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Burke's ethos: The truth is in there

New head coach so refreshingly candid, honest

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REGINA -- It could be an elaborate ruse or maybe an honesty that sounds alarm bells inside the listener's head, given the usually buttoned-down source that the words are emanating from.

How else does one measure the almost unbelievable amount of frankness from Blue Bombers interim head coach Tim Burke this past week, as he professed to know next to nothing about his offence or having no experience with the ins-and-outs of managing a game as the top dog on the sidelines? Either he's not being truthful or he's under-promising with the hopes of over-delivering, or -- and this is the most likely scenario -- his candour with reporters is just the way he's wired when dealing with others.

Burke's continued public admission that he's not completely down with the job description he's inherited is a refreshing storyline heading into the biggest game of the season for Winnipeg. But how will this turn out for the last-place, 2-6 Bombers?

If he uses his timeout during the coin toss, we'll have our answer.

"I feel like I am," responded Burke when asked if he was ready to make his professional head coaching debut in the hostile environment that is the Labour Day Classic matchup with the Saskatchewan Roughriders at Mosaic Stadium this afternoon (3 p.m. TSN, CJOB).

"I've been reviewing all the rules involving when I should be throwing the (challenge) flag and all that stuff. Um... I think I got that down now -- whether we make the right decision at the right time, I suppose depends a lot on our spotters in the booth."

Is he nervous?

"Not right now, I might be (before kickoff)."

Burke isn't the only Bomber getting his feet wet in Regina this weekend. Starting quarterback Joey Elliott, despite this being his third year in the CFL, has never been to a game at Mosaic Stadium. He didn't make the trip as a healthy rookie in 2010, and he was dealing with a torn-up knee at this time last season.

He's familiar with the outside expectation of this Prairie rivalry and said he won't be intimidated by the three-hour pause on civil conduct at Mosaic. In fact, playing on the road is something Elliott would rather be doing anyway, he says.

"I like playing on the road, actually, better than playing at home, but that's just my personal preference," said Elliott. "If you've been in Winnipeg for quite some time, you feel like you know every fan and every person in every seat; when you go to an away game, you don't really know much. It's just your team -- you're worried about everyone in your locker-room -- and you can worry about your things."

Elliott makes his third straight start Sunday. He's 1-3 as a CFL starter, and is coming off a loss to B.C. where he went 20-of-42 for 256 yards and one interception.

Sunday's game marks the 50th installment of the LDC, with Saskatchewan holding a 31-18 overall advantage. The Bombers haven't won in Regina since the 2004 season, and are coming off a 27-7 defeat to the Green Gappers last season.

Rookie wideout Chris Matthews laughed when asked if the Bombers are playing against history.

"That might be tough to do," said Matthews, who's second in CFL receiving with 676 yards. "This is like anything else: It's a first experience. Personally, (the LDC) is not that big of a deal... I'll have a better idea what this is all about later (Saturday night) or when we're on the field for warm-ups."

This theme of uncertainty brings us back to Burke, who in yet another Coach's Confessional says that he has indeed been looking ahead, past the next two games with the Riders, to what the rest of the season holds for his club.

"You know, I was trying to sit down and tabulate how many wins it would take to make the playoffs and all that," he said. "Who knows? We don't know how the rest of the East is going to finish and all that, but (GM Joe Mack) made a decision to make a change, so obviously they want us to win games, so I would say every game at this point is critical."

Winnipeg has 10 games left. What was his magic number?

"Like I said, I don't know. A lot of it depends on the other teams."

Certainly, there's a lot of truth to that. Twitter: @wazoowazny

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 2, 2012 B2

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