Blue Bomber Report Record: 7–11–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Getting their heads straight

Players-only session 'good for us,' then Burke calls them 'immature'

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'A lot of people are just looking at last year and thinking,

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

'A lot of people are just looking at last year and thinking, "Oh boy...here we go again." That’s what is really raising the panic. I think we’re far from the team we were last year. We’re way more talented.' -- Chad Simpson Photo Store

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers did the group-therapy thing Monday morning. Veterans spoke and rookies listened. Promises were made and, by the end of it all, everyone apparently exited with the collective conviction of a team of monks.

"It wasn't negative at all," explained slotback Terrence Edwards. "It was just what we need to do better to get wins and what we need to do to play better. Period."

And then they met with head coach Tim Burke, a man whose honesty often comes across as bluntly as a two-by-four to the forehead. Asked for his overall assessment of his team after a 1-3 start to the season, Burke called his squad "immature."

"I don't know what the players said (in their meeting)," he said. "I heard it was constructive.

'A lot of people are just looking at last year and thinking, 'Oh boy... here we go again.' That's what is really raising the panic. I think we're far from the team we were last year. We're way more talented'

-- Chad Simpson (5), running against Toronto in Friday's loss

"In my meeting, I just basically said we've got to mature as a team. We can't let adversity set us into the tank every time something happens, because there's going to be adversity in every game.

"... I just used Calgary in the Montreal game (last Saturday) as an example. It was 24-0 (for Montreal) and then it was a 35-0 swing the other way because Calgary is a mature team. They believe they're going to win, they know they're going to win. I said that's the attitude you've got to take. You've got to know you're going to win and you've got to practise like you're already a winner."

Monday's Bomber practice was 50 minutes late starting because of all the skull sessions behind closed doors. And when it did start there was a morose feel to it -- gone was the music playing over the PA system that has been a regular feature -- until some of Burke's coaching staff started to light a fire under the troops. By the end of the practice, which Burke said was good, there was considerably more chatter.

Now the bigger question becomes: Will all the meetings and all this talk actually translate into something when the Bombers play host to the Calgary Stampeders Friday?

"Whether they work or not, it's still early and nobody really knows," said cornerback Jovon Johnson of the team meetings. "With us today, it was guys telling each other we've got to be more accountable. You've got to go out and compete in practice, because that ultimately leads to how you play in a game.

"It was good for us. You could sense that nobody is separated in our locker-room. That's always a good thing. It was just an opportunity for guys to get their opinions out. Everything that was said today was about being consistent, being accountable and looking in the mirror at yourself first and don't separate the locker-room, because at the end of the day, all three phases have had spurts where they play good.

"We just need to put it all together and we'll be fine."

Added running back Chad Simpson: "A lot of people are just looking at last year and thinking, 'Oh boy... here we go again.' That's what is really raising the panic. I think we're far from the team we were last year. We're way more talented."

That's open for debate right now with the Bombers at 1-3 -- they opened at 0-4 last year. Still, with the rest of the East Division struggling and Toronto in first at 2-2, if the talk can be constructive, it's better to be heard now when there is a season to salvage than later when it is fading away.

"Sometimes you come into the facilities after a loss and everybody's morale is kinda down," said quarterback Justin Goltz. "People are looking at each other for answers and sometimes not a lot is said because it's professional football and sometimes guys' jobs are on the line and you can't necessarily get everything out that you want to. You have to keep your mouth shut and just do your job because you don't want to rub anyone the wrong way or say something that shouldn't be said.

"But, as a brotherhood, we need to get stuff off our chest and lay stuff out and be men about it and take constructive criticism."

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @WFPEdTait

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 23, 2013 D3

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Updated on Tuesday, July 23, 2013 at 9:40 AM CDT: replaces photo

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