The team remains weeks away from a total dress rehearsal but the early reviews on new Winnipeg Blue Bombers offensive co-ordinator Gary Crowton are positive.
After spending the last two days working alongside Crowton, the man who will conduct the Bombers offence this season, the players directly under his direction shared positive impressions of their new boss -- even as they navigate through this initial 'getting to know you' stage.
"He's been really good," quarterback Buck Pierce said following Day 2 of the team's mini camp at Canad Inns Stadium. "He's obviously new to the CFL and the style of game up here, but he's one of the best quarterback minds around. He's very open to our suggestions, which is great in terms of everyone getting comfortable with the change."
The suggestion box Pierce refers to came from Crowton himself, who wanted to tap into the CFL knowledge his four pivots -- Pierce, Alex Brink, Joey Elliott and Justin Goltz -- have gathered through their various tours in the Canadian game.
For his 30 years of experience inside the U.S. college and NFL game, his CFL inexperience is equally noteworthy, so he asked the players to chime in when they see a possible twist on one of his screen packages or a potential problem with a hitch route.
"He asked us to do that," Brink said. "He's been receptive to all suggestions we have, as we might have a better handle on something at this point then he does. He takes all that into consideration.
"He's very detailed when it comes to installing the offence. There's an adjustment to the offence overall, but that detail is going to help a lot."
This week marks the first real time Crowton and the quarterbacks have spent together since he was hired in January. Both Pierce and Brink, the projected No. 1 and No. 2 guys on the Winnipeg depth chart for the 2012 season, have been impressed with the detail Crowton works with, leaving no scenario unspoken as the offence meets over the 'Canadianized' edition of his playbook.
Despite the open exchange of ideas in this early going, Pierce said Crowton still commands the QB huddle.
"He's the man and he makes that very apparent," the eight-year veteran said. "I like that, I like that he takes control. He speaks a language that relates to me. Watching what he did at his previous places (with the quarterbacks), I feel that's one of my strong points."
As fans may have noticed, Pierce likes to run with the ball. Crowton loves motion, too, so he'll be asking his quarterbacks to move the launch point around and create a little more time (and take a little stress off the offensive line) by rolling out of the pocket.
Bombers head coach Paul LaPolice called Crowton a 'mad scientist' and has been very happy with the progress his new O.C. has made in the last three months. LaPolice hinted Thursday the Bombers will start with a conservative offensive plan that would be added to and expanded each week, giving Crowton a chance to see different coverages as the summer moves along.
Pierce, meanwhile, seems content with his new boss. Or maybe he's happy with the scenario of having to 'prove himself' to a new set of eyes and a different list of opinions. This scenario is closer to truth than fiction, as Pierce has fed off doubts about his health for most of his CFL career, with questions coming up each time he's slow to get up or forced from a game.
Both quarterbacks like the challenge of performing in front of a new coach, they say.
"As a player, you want to show him that you can play," Pierce said. "I want to go out here and show him my best."
Final question: Is Crowton a yeller and a screamer, or does he carry a more thoughtful mind?
Two days isn't enough time to make that determination.
"I get the feeling he's more of a cerebral type," Brink added. "He has this detail mindset, so he's going to coach you before he starts yelling at you. That's a good thing, I think."
The Bombers wrap up mini camp at Canad Inns Stadium this morning with the workout beginning at 10:30 a.m.