Eliminated from the playoffs for the third time in four years with a loss to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats Saturday, one of the questions that immediately arose is should the Winnipeg Blue Bombers "blow up" the team and start all over again next season.
Not so fast, says safety Ian Logan, noting the 5-12 record the Bombers have is actually a little better than the 4-14 record the team posted in 2010.
"The same thing happened in 2010 -- we were 4-14 and they held together the core of the guys and we made it to the Grey Cup the next year. It's the same thing here. We just need to make a few adjustments. We have good athletes and guys who can lead us to a championship."
Bombers head coach Tim Burke was adamant Saturday that he still thinks this team is championship calibre. "I definitely do," said Burke. "When you look at our skill players, they're pretty good players. We just have to have a little bit better quarterback play for us to win games."
But Burke added that what happens to this team -- and him, for that matter -- is a decision that won't be his to make. "That's not up to me. It's up to the president, the CEO, the GM and the board of directors. Whatever they decide is what's going to happen."
Bombers QB Joey Elliott said he hopes the nucleus returns intact.
"I hope so. I like every guy in the locker-room. I'm not blowing smoke -- I love every guy in that locker-room. Coach Burke is telling us to enjoy it one more week. Who knows what's going to happen to any one of us. Let's just enjoy football and show up together with these guys in the locker-room -- guys that you went to battle with for a full year -- and you have one more week together."
The Bombers finish the regular season with a meaningless game this Saturday at Canad Inns Stadium against the Montreal Alouettes.
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One of the most prominent free agents the Bombers will have this off-season will be defensive back Jonathan Hefney.
Hefney said Saturday he would like to once again pursue NFL opportunities -- he most recently spent some time in 2010 with the Detroit Lions -- but said if that doesn't work out, Winnipeg is the only place he wants to play.
"I've got another game left. We're going to play some football and see where it goes from there. There's a lot of different stuff I'm trying to get accomplished. But if I don't get a chance to play down south, I will try to come back here. This is where my teammates and all my friends are.
"And I don't like too many other teams up here. That's just how I am. I've been that way -- I'm always loyal to (his college team) Tennessee, I'm loyal to my high school, even to the military school I went to. I'm always loyal."
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Winnipeg's other marquee defensive back, Jovon Johnson, signed a contract extension last spring and there's no doubt he will be coming back in 2013.
But Johnson will be coming back after a difficult season in which -- by his own admission -- he struggled, just one year after he made CFL history by becoming the first DB to be named the league's Most Outstanding Defensive Player.
"I didn't have the best year in my football career. I don't really have an answer as to why that is. It's been hard on all of us, myself included. We've got to go back to the drawing board and hopefully next year we'll have all our guys back and continue to build on our chemistry. Because we started to build some stuff here."
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In retrospect, opening the season at 0-4 was probably not such a good idea, says offensive lineman Glenn January.
"I really wish we had back some of those games early that we pissed away. Then this wouldn't have been such a high-stakes game," January said in the Bombers locker-room in Hamilton. "Right, wrong or indifferent -- we struggled at times with dealing with things that were out of our control."
Of course, among the things that were out of the team's control -- at least the control of the players -- was the four games the team had to play on the road to open the season.
Still, defensive back/SAM Johnny Sears says the players have to take ownership for the failing of this season.
"We've got to do better. Have to do better. There's so many things you could talk about and elaborate on. But the bottom line is everyone has to do their job. Everyone has to come into work, put that hard hat on and do their job to the best of their abilities. And sometimes it didn't seem like that. At some points in the season, it seemed like everyone was on the same page. But it was off and on. And you've got to be consistent."
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Lost Saturday amid the grieving that comes with being eliminated from playoff contention was the play of slotback Terrence Edwards, who scored one of his team's two touchdowns on a 41-yard catch-and-run late in the fourth quarter and finished the game with 60 yards to give him 1,049 for the season. It's the fifth time Edwards has achieved the 1,000-yard milestone.