Blue Bomber Report Record: 7–11–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Call him Mr. Transparency

Blue boss expects to mostly ignore closed-practice rule

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In a sport famous for its paranoids among the coaching ranks, Winnipeg Blue Bombers head coach Tim Burke stands almost unique in his continuing and steadfast insistence on as much openness as possible.

Want to know who's injured? Just ask? Want to know what's injured? Just ask. Want to know who's playing well, who's playing lousy and who will or won't be playing? Again and again and again, just ask and the odds are excellent Burke will tell you.

And so it was perhaps predictable -- but heartening just the same -- Burke wants almost nothing to do with a new CFL rule this season that will allow teams to close up to one practice every week to fans and the media.

While Burke was careful on Monday to make sure he kept that card available to him, he made it equally clear he would play it only in the most exceptional of circumstances.

"There might be a game down the line -- maybe a pivotal game where we're playing for first place or something like that -- where we want to put in some new stuff. That might be the only time," Burke explained.

"As long as we continue to have such a great working relationship (with the media) and I don't want to cut the fans out either."

Burke also feigned concern for what reporters would do with themselves if they didn't have his practices to cover. "What would you guys do if you didn't come here? You'd be just out golfing or something."

The new closed-practice rule was adopted during the off-season in response in part to the concerns of some head coaches that the prevalence of smartphones with cameras was making it impossible to keep anything done in practice a secret anymore.

While CFL teams have experimented with closing practices in the past -- both the Saskatchewan Roughriders and B.C. Lions had closed practices at various times last year and the Lions were reportedly fined by the league for theirs -- it's been a bit of a grey area and unevenly enforced by the CFL.

The new rule puts in writing what level of secrecy will be deemed acceptable and makes it clear teams will be sanctioned if they exceed that.

Burke said he just doesn't really see a need for much, if any, of all the stealth some of his counterparts in the league resort to.

"We're not giving away the state secrets or anything like that when we do our little thing here," said Burke. "I don't know -- I've got a job to do, you guys have a job to do, so why not we just do it al ltogether. I don't see a problem with it."

It was pointed out to Burke there will almost certainly be some head coaches in the league who will take full advantage this season of the new closed practice rules and he was asked if that might give them a competitive advantage over the Bombers.

"I don't think so," said Burke. "They probably just don't want to deal with the media."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 25, 2013 C4

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