Winnipeg Blue Bombers head coach Tim Burke says he made clear in his closing address to his players at Canad Inns Stadium on Sunday that they better show up to training camp next year with a much better attitude than they did this year.
Burke said he sensed a complacency in the team last June when they returned after a 2011 season that saw them go to the Grey Cup.
"I told them that we're going to come back and we are going to start strong next year. We cannot come back with the same attitude we had this last year when we showed up for training camp," Burke told reporters on Sunday. "As a team, the players approached the season as if, 'Well, this is just going to happen every year, we're this good and we're always going to go to the Grey Cup.' It doesn't work that way. You have to have a burning desire to be in the Grey Cup and you have to train with that burning desire to be in the Grey Cup.
"It has to be every fibre in your body, your heart, soul and mind to get back there. And if it isn't, we're going to replace you. We will bring in enough competition that if you don't have that burning desire, we will find someone who does... I want them to know right now that you're coming back with a great attitude and a great work ethic or you're not going to be here."
Burke was asked to address what some of the biggest shortcomings were in 2012 for his club, which finished the season with 6-12 after a 19-11 win over the Montreal Alouettes at Canad Inns Stadium on Saturday.
"I think overall defensively we didn't play very well. I don't think we covered very well in the secondary. I think our man coverage was poor most of the year. So, I think there will be some competition there. I think we still have to find more ways to get a pass rush. I think we were really good until we got banged up on the defensive line and then I think we fell off there.
"So whether it's getting more competition for the D-line or it's scheme, we have to find a way to get more pressure on the quarterback."
Burke shared some other thoughts:
-- Whoever he hires as his defensive co-ordinator will have to share his philosophy that speed kills. "I think you win with speed on defence and you win with aggressive players who aren't afraid of hitting people."
-- Asked if he will live in Winnipeg all winter, Burke hedged. "I will be in and out of town," he said. "If you asked me right now, am I a full-time resident of Winnipeg, I'd say yes and I vacation in the U.S." Burke added he is very familiar with prairie winters from the three seasons he coached at UND in the '80s.
-- Burke said he liked the way Johnny Sears played the strong-side linebacker position and suggested Sears would have the inside track for the job next season if he re-signs with the team this winter. If Sears doesn't come back, Burke said he was comfortable giving Demond Washington a long look at the SAM job next year.
-- Burke said a few players are due to undergo surgery this season, but he didn't say who. One player who won't be undergoing the knife, however, is QB Buck Pierce, who said he has no surgery scheduled this winter.
-- Burke said he'd like to bring in some more veteran Canadian content over the winter, but he knows that's tough. "We'll look and see what's available in free agency. But they have to be better than what we have."
-- Burke sounds like he agrees with GM Joe Mack that CFL free agents are overpaid. "Free agents tend to make more money than probably they should."
-- Burke said he was pleased with the improvement in his offensive line during the second half of the season. "There's no doubt... I thought we got a lot better on the offensive line."