September 2, 2015


Record: 3–6–0

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Blue Bomber Report

Heat warning in effect

Bombers give new digs a workout: The Burke identity

In a nutshell, coach expects honest effort

Tim Burke never got the chance to do this a year ago. One day late last August he reported to work as the Winnipeg Blue Bombers defensive co-ordinator and left as the head coach.

Yes, if there's such a thing as a two-minute drill for coaches, he lived it right through to the end of the season.

Blue Bombers head coach Tim Burke watches over the action.

JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS

Blue Bombers head coach Tim Burke watches over the action.

Winnipeg Blue Bombers quarterback Buck Pierce runs a drill Sunday.

PHOTOS BY JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS

Winnipeg Blue Bombers quarterback Buck Pierce runs a drill Sunday.

Demond Washington (15) and Alex Suber work though some drills on Day One.

CP

Demond Washington (15) and Alex Suber work though some drills on Day One.

And so there might have been some piqued interest Sunday morning -- both from inside the Bomber clubhouse and for outsiders -- as to what Day 1 of the Bombers' 2013 training camp might look and feel like, given Burke had his first real opportunity to put his own stamp on things.

'Basically, if you're going to have the honour to wear this jersey and put this helmet on, this is what he expects. That's fair'

-- Bombers quarterback Buck Pierce

A quick, first take? There were no gimmicks. There wasn't a constant barking from a boss trying to make himself the centrepiece. And there certainly were no attempts to reinvent a game built on decades of meticulous drilling and repetition.

It was, to sum up, all business all the time for Burke & Co. And what's the old saying about a team taking on the identity of its head coach?

"I'm just me," said Burke with a shrug after practice. "I don't try to be somebody I'm not. I believe in discipline and I believe you've got to put everything out there that you've got ability-wise. But I also believe you should be having fun and that your teammates and your coaches should be your friends."

Two snippets from Sunday speak to that: First, veteran tackle Glenn January described Burke as old school meets players' coach. And, second, in a three-minute chat quarterback Buck Pierce used the word "honest" a half-dozen times in describing his head coach.

"It's black and white, it's all laid out there. There's no gray area with coach Burke," said Pierce. "Basically, if you're going to have the honour to wear this jersey and put this helmet on, this is what he expects. That's fair. That's the way it should be."

Now, all of this is what you might expect when the curtain lifts on a new campaign. Spirits are always soaring when the standings are wiped clean and any of the series of crises each season provides have yet to threaten or topple the scheduled daily regimen.

And, frankly, with an incomplete grade from a year ago -- the Bombers lost their first three games under his watch by a combined score of 121-27 but were 4-3 in their last seven -- there are still some unanswered questions about Burke, the head coach.

What is clear, however, is this: there should be no questions about his approach or his expectations -- a point he drilled home in his address to the team Saturday night.

"Team first," explained Burke. "Everybody pulling in the same direction, which is competitive greatness. Everybody works for their personal best every day and if everybody achieves their personal best every day then the team will achieve competitive greatness, And when we achieve competitive greatness the score will take care of itself.

"That's my whole philosophy in a nutshell."

OK, so it's a little wordy to fit on the back of a T-shirt, but you get the gist. And so should the 80-plus men who are trying to crack the roster.

"He really emphasized accountability and professionalism," said January of Burke's pre-camp speech. "He wanted to make sure that everyone understood this is a job and we're going to be held to the same standards as anyone else that holds a position with any company across Canada. He also reminded us this is a position that is in high demand and we could easily be replaced.

"It wasn't a threat, it was just a friendly reminder that this is a competitive profession and we have to act like professionals.

"You know," January added, "I'm excited to see how this team grows underneath him."

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

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 3, 2013 D1

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