Blue Bomber Report Record: 6–10–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Business as usual for Bombers GM

Kyle Walters continues prep for season despite threat of CFL work stoppage

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Bombers GM Kyle Walters continues prep for the upcoming season despite the threat of CFL work stoppage.

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Bombers GM Kyle Walters continues prep for the upcoming season despite the threat of CFL work stoppage. Photo Store

It was the day after the momentous day before and Winnipeg Blue Bombers GM Kyle Walters had a major problem on his hands.

"I've got three days," Walters explained Thursday, "to install my offence, my defence and my special teams."

That is a problem -- but also, maybe, a solution.

Because if Walters can figure out a way to successfully install all three facets of football on the high school team he is coaching Saturday in the Winnipeg High School Football League's Senior Bowl, he will be better prepared than his CFL contemporaries to do the same for the Bombers in the increasingly likely event the start of CFL training camp is delayed by a work stoppage.

That scenario, of course, became a very real possibility on Wednesday when negotiations on a new collective bargaining agreement broke down in Toronto and both sides took their cases to the public in a cross-country PR offensive that was heavy on rhetoric and name-calling and light on solutions.

Caught in the middle of the ugliness are CFL middle-management guys like Walters, who worked tirelessly all winter to carefully put in place the pieces necessary to begin to turn around a troubled Winnipeg franchise only to now have all that hard work jeopardized.

Sucks eh? "No not at all," Walters insisted Thursday. "I'm pretty good about not worrying about stuff I can't control. It is what it is. Adversity just makes you stronger and this is something we will build on.

"This is my first year on the job and there's things to learn and this is just another thing that we're going through. But none of us are getting overly stressed out about it. It will sort itself out. And when something pops up, we'll figure it out and move on."

Walters comments to the Free Press on Thursday were the first of any kind the Bombers have made that were even tangentially related to the collective bargaining agreement.

CFL teams were threatened with heavy fines this spring by CFL commissioner Mark Cohon if they spoke in any way about the ongoing negotiations with the players, and the Bombers honoured that vow of silence.

But with Cohon going public with the league's position on Wednesday, Walters agreed to a request on Thursday to discuss how the impasse is affecting his team's preparations for the 2014 season.

The answer, it turned out, was pretty simple --it's not. At least not yet.

"Whether a (work stoppage) does or does not come our way, it's still our job to win football games. So we're carrying on here as normal until we are told otherwise," said Walters.

"It behooves us at this point to have standard operating procedure. We've got our schedule, we've got our quarterback plan, we've got our rookie camp plan -- none of that changes. The football guys really aren't that concerned about that other stuff. The football guys are concerned about football.

"Now, yes, we're all very aware of the (labour) situation. And if something comes down the hopper or there's new policies implemented by the league, we'll adjust on the fly. But until that happens, there's really no use worrying about it."

Walters says a rookie camp scheduled to begin at Investors Group Field on May 28 that will include the team's four quarterbacks is set to go on as scheduled, with players due to begin arriving this weekend. He said flights remain booked and the players are expected to be on them.

With the existing collective bargaining agreement still in effect until May 29 at midnight, the CFL Players' Association has thus far taken a hands-off approach to players reporting for rookie camp next week.

"(We) haven't told them anything yet," said Bombers player representative Glenn January. "(We're) still trying to get the CFL to talk to us."

While Winnipeg's schedule for the next few weeks remain unchanged -- at least for now -- it's still not entirely business as usual at Investors Group Field. Walters says the club has dealt with calls of concern from agents and newly signed players who heard about all the upheaval on Wednesday and wondered what effect it was going to have on their future and that of their clients.

"What our front-line guys in the States are doing right now is a whole lot of talking to agents and first-year players," explained Walters. "This (labour impasse) information has trickled down there and they're being told the same thing -- it's standard procedure and business as usual.

"You know, we worked so hard to scout these young guys, to get them under contract, we went through mini-camp in Florida -- now you just want to calm everyone down and assure them it's standard operating procedure.

"This will figure itself out. It's just a matter of when."

paul.wiecek@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @PaulWiecek

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 23, 2014 C3

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