IT was an improbable and potentially mind-twisting scene. And yet, if you've been paying attention at all to the Canadian Football League over the last oh, 100 years or so, it probably wouldn't have seemed the least bit extraordinary.
Yes, there was Winnipeg Blue Bombers head coach Tim Burke at his press briefing Monday afternoon being quizzed about a push to the playoffs and a possible contract extension.
A brief moment to let that sink in...
To repeat: Burke, the boss of a 5-11 football team, was talking about the playoffs and a column by colleague Gary Lawless in Monday's Free Press that the organization was going to remove the 'interim' tag from his title.
What's that old saying again about the 'C' in CFL standing for 'Crazy'?
"I know somebody might ask the question about Gary's article... the first I ever heard anything about that was this morning when one of the coaches said, 'I heard on the radio that they were going to offer you a contract,' " Burke said.
"I have not heard anything from the organization. I hope Gary's sources are really good. I mean, I'd love to be the head coach here next year. But nothing's been said to me by anybody."
And so when Burke and the Bombers return to practice Tuesday morning, the focus will be on what is directly in front of them -- this Saturday's must-win in Hamilton against the Tiger-Cats -- and not what might happen next week or at season's end.
That's why Burke, when asked if he had an agent who would be handling any potential contract talks, chose instead to focus on the here and now.
"Let's not get into hypotheticals," Burke said. "If it happens, I'll be glad to tell you what's going on. I don't want to get into hypotheticals. We have to worry about getting ready for Hamilton and trying to beat those guys. We have a glimmer of hope to make it to the playoffs so that's what we're trying to do, win this game and then we'll try to win the next one and then hopefully get in."
Now, the fact topics like the playoffs and retaining Burke for 2013 are even being discussed would have been absolutely ridiculous just over a month ago after a humiliating 44-3 loss to Calgary -- a week after a 25-24 defeat in the Banjo Bowl that came on the heels of a 52-0 embarrassment in the Labour Day Classic.
But the Bombers are 3-2 since then -- including winning two of their last three -- and have showed some signs of life, particularly on offence, over that span.
In the last three games, the Bombers have averaged 30.6 points and 432 yards net offence while working behind a ground game that is in full beast mode with Chad Simpson and Will Ford chewing up real estate behind an improving O-line.
It's not complicated by any means, but is a complete about-face from the massacre at McMahon back on Sept. 14.
"The low point, obviously, was Calgary," Burke said. "I mean, we hit bottom there and then we started bringing it back together. That whole thought of how everybody outside of our program was looking at the players and the coaches and bringing that to their attention, I think that got their (the players') attention.
"Obviously, they didn't want to be perceived as losers or quitters. Since that point, we've played a heckuva lot better. We've been in every game and we've played hard."
The Bombers will be heading to Hamilton seriously short-handed along the defensive line. Burke confirmed Monday that defensive end Jason Vega is out while Kenny Mainor is doubtful. As well, defensive tackle Bryant Turner is questionable -- as are safety Ian Logan and slotback Terrence Edwards.
As a result, the club has brought back Rodney Fritz, who was released earlier this year while practice roster player Youri Yenga could also be activated. If he can suit up, Turner will likely move from tackle to end.
The Bombers are already without D-linemen Alex Hall and Brandon Collier.
"We're really low on defensive ends right now," said Burke.
"We're really banged up on the defensive line so the concern is, can we get a pass rush? I think we'll be fine in trying to defend the run but obviously, when you lose all those ends, those are your speed guys off the edge and right now we just don't have anybody."
Meanwhile, cornerback Johnny Sears has been cleared for action after taking a crushing hit on the opening kickoff of last weekend's win over Toronto.
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