Blue Bomber Report Record: 6–11–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Johnson, Hefney brash as ever after run-in

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Humbled? Not exactly.

Though Jovon Johnson and Jonathan Hefney got reprimands and some slaps on the wrist during the off-season for controversial comments each made on his Twitter account, any notion that it was going to be quieter, gentler versions of the two Winnipeg Blue Bombers defensive backs this season was dispelled within moments of the pair finally arriving at training camp Tuesday.

Just ask Bombers wide receiver Kito Poblah. "Oh, you know those guys; they like talking that trash on the field," Poblah laughed. "It took, like, a minute. And that's why I was like, 'Oh yeah, so you guys want to start talking tough already? All right then.' And so that's why I turned up the heat for a little bit.

"But that's what's great about those guys -- they keep you on edge. And that's what you need to not sleep and keep on pushing."

It wasn't just on the field where Johnson and Hefney quickly established that, while Bombers GM Joe Mack may have softened their voices on Twitter (the team installed a new social-media policy in direct response to the winter's controversies), they are still in full throat everywhere else.

No sooner had Johnson finished verbally schooling Poblah on his many failings as a player than he emerged from the practice field and offered some very frank talk about what he thought of the club's plan to pack up shop at Canad Inns Stadium at some point this season -- September maybe? -- and move across town to the new stadium going up on the University of Manitoba's Fort Garry campus.

"Once guys get comfortable here and hopefully we're on a winning edge, I think we should just play it out here," Johnson told reporters. "Why move in the middle of the year to a new surface, a new atmosphere, and give teams a different advantage in going against us there?

"I'd rather stay and play it out, especially if we're winning a lot of games. Why take away what's given us the advantage to move us to a different atmosphere?"

Hefney, who missed the first couple days of camp to be with his ailing father, said he doesn't care where he plays this season, he's just glad to be playing again. "As long as I can get on the field and hit somebody and have a good time and we get some W's, I don't care where we play.

"Once that new stadium opens, I know it's going to be live and it's going to be rocking."

Johnson made waves on Twitter and in an interview with the Free Press over the winter with some pointed comments about what he perceived as Mack's slowness in signing him to a contract extension after he became the first defensive back in CFL history to be named the league's outstanding defensive player in 2011.

Hefney, meanwhile, got himself in trouble with some equally pointed tweets directed at the Bombers and Mack for what Hefney perceived were off-season failings by the Bombers' front office.

Mack made no secret at the time of his displeasure with the players and their comments and went so far as to make a veiled threat at the time to bring in plenty of defensive backs this training camp to challenge the team's incumbents.

Mack made good on the threat, bringing in five rookie DBs to camp. A couple of them, especially Demond Washington, have looked pretty good so far, although if Washington's going to replace anyone on the Bombers' roster, it will much more likely be someone like Deon Beasley than Hefney or Johnson.

Johnson says he's learned his lesson about Twitter and will keep things more temperate this season -- but only on Twitter. "My game on the field won't change. I will still be the same player," he pledges. "It's just my involvement in the social media that will change."

Which is pretty much what Hefney had to say too. "I'm always going to talk and have fun," he said.

paul.wiecek@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 6, 2012 C1

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