Blue Bomber Report Record: 7–11–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Player-friendly LaPo had to go

Old-school Burke will demand players' respect

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The theory that Paul LaPolice was too soft, had lost the locker-room and didn't have the respect of the players is a popular belief among those who wished to see him removed as head coach of the Blue Bombers.

That was the impetus for the change to Tim Burke. He comes in as the heavy, the disciplinarian; a strong hand who won't suffer fools or be played as one by players who take penalties during games or miss practices when days off are granted -- if those mini-vacations are even handed out under his rule.

Burke is not just old school; he's the one-room schoolhouse run by the Catholic Church -- discipline and fear, rolled into one.

Safety Ian Logan is as big a Burke fan as you'll find on the roster. He credited the defensive co-ordinator when he was named a CFL all-star last season and during the winter, expressed some excitement when Burke didn't get the Hamilton head coach job. He's worked closely with Burke for a season and a half now, but wasn't so sure if discipline is what the Bombers have been searching for this season.

"I don't think you can do more than coach LaPolice was doing, to be honest," Logan said. "For example, if guys were late for a meeting, they got fined. What else can you do on top of that, right? You can't sit a guy for a game because he was late for a meeting -- that would hurt the whole team.

"I know coach Burke is going to implement some more running as punishment. Maybe that will get the message across, but we're grown men. You shouldn't be late for anything."

But they were, which led to questions about respect. Did the players take advantage of a "player-friendly" coach?

The way they played against B.C. suggested they thought enough of their former boss to not quit on him, but they continued to take undisciplined penalties (13 in total). Is that a product of respect or is that repercussions of fielding the youngest roster in the CFL? We'll find out in the coming weeks.

Burke was asked how a coach commands the locker-room. He talked about being genuine in front of the players and not trying to be someone you're not.

LaPolice's biggest fault as a head coach was that he tried to wear a number of personality hats. His passion for football is unquestioned -- the guy lives in the video room -- but he was guilty of trying to be every coach to every player at all times, and he never seemed comfortable.

It's not that he was too nice; he was just too prepackaged, too processed -- like cheese or deli meat.

That shouldn't matter, though. Last we checked, the players are paid professionals. If they can't motivate themselves to show up on time and play hard -- something they obviously can do, as you need a hint of personal drive to get to this level -- without being helped along by the coach, then that doesn't say much about the players.

Logan was one of a few veterans who sounded almost insulted that they needed to be injected with fear under the guise of it being a motivator. He wasn't the only one wondering if the mid-season coaching change was the fix the Bombers required, as well.

"We have to clean that stuff up on our own," quarterback Buck Pierce said. "I know a lot of people in this league have respect for (LaPolice) and I had respect for him. It's just unfortunate that some of those things are said about him."

Receiver Terrence Edwards dismissed the "fear factor" under Burke Tuesday, correcting the suggestion with the term 'respect.' He went on a lengthy rant about not fearing anyone -- including Bombers GM Joe Mack -- and told reporters while he didn't agree with the decision to fire LaPolice, he respects the boss and the organization enough not to sound off about it.

"I think coach LaPo could have been firmer in some things, definitely think that," he said. "So I think coach Burke is trying to bring that whip a little bit. It's really not going to affect me, because I'm going to do what I was supposed to anyway. Some guys it might affect, and they might not like, but it's coach Burke's way now.

"If you don't like it, he's going to have you on the sidelines or have you out of here." Twitter: @wazoowazny

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Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 29, 2012 C1

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