Blue Bomber Report Record: 3–15–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Two heads better than one

Burke, Walters will team up on sidelines Sunday

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One thing that has emerged very quickly this week under the new regime of Winnipeg Blue Bombers head coach Tim Burke is that he is both blunt and funny, often at the same time.

And so when Burke was asked Thursday after his team's practice at Canad Inns Stadium if he would "relish" his head coaching debut this Sunday on the Bombers sideline at Mosaic Stadium in Regina, Burke didn't hesitate.

"I don't know how much I will relish and enjoy it at the very beginning," replied Burke. "I just hope I'm not peeing my pants at that point."

All of which is a funny way of saying there's going to be a bit of a learning curve in this Burke experiment, as the lifelong secondary coach and defensive co-ordinator gets comfortable for the first time with being the boss of everything.

Just about everything will be new for Burke when he puts on the headset this Sunday as the Bombers take on the Saskatchewan Roughriders -- and that begins with Burke's sideline vantage point.

Burke has spent most of the past 20 years as either a defensive co-ordinator or secondary coach, positions which have forced him to watch games from high above the field in the coach's box.

Asked when the last time he actually watched a game from field level, Burke figured it was in 1993 or 1994 while he was coaching at Ball State.

Tasked with making Burke more comfortable and ensuring the Bombers don't get tripped up on in-game management on Sunday will be the team's special teams co-ordinator, Kyle Walters.

While Walters has precisely the same amount of CFL head coaching experience as Burke -- zero -- he does have the benefit of having been the head coach at the University of Guelph for four seasons.

Walters says his university experience -- and two-and-a-half seasons of also serving as the right-hand man on the sidelines for former Bombers field boss Paul LaPolice -- should help both men get through the learning curve.

"All head coaches are just managing the game," Walters said. "You're making the same decisions, it's just the scrutiny is much less for poor decisions" at the university level.

That's for sure. Walters says he will approach the job with Burke the same way he did with LaPolice. "I never try to tell the head coach what to do," he said. "I just try to predict the outcome. If we decide this, here's the projected outcome. If we decide that, here's the projected outcome. What do you think? That's more my role...

"It's often something as simple as do we give up a safety or do we punt the ball? Do we kick a field goal or go for it on third down? Do we run the clock out into the wind?"

Burke said he's also spent time this week talking to Walters about when to throw challenge flags. But in the end, Walters said he expects Burke will know what to do when called upon to do it.

"I've talked to Tim a lot about this and told him, 'Your gut reaction is going to be right,' " says Walters. "Tim is a football guy, he's been around it his whole life... People will nitpick the decisions as much as they want after the fact."

paul.wiecek@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 31, 2012 C3

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