Blue Bomber Report Record: 6–10–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

We're not Henoc-king Shea, but...

Burke thinks Muamba has more upside

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WINNIPEG Blue Bombers head coach Tim Burke was asked on Wednesday to compare the play of Bombers middle linebacker Henoc Muamba to that of another non-import middle linebacker in the league, Montreal's Shea Emry.

Both men were named on Wednesday as their team's top Canadians in 2012, but Emry also added a top defensive player nomination and Burke -- who coached Emry when the former was the defensive co-ordinator in Montreal -- was asked if he sees a younger version of Emry in Muamba.

"Physically, I'd say Henoc is faster. They're both intelligent guys. Shea obviously has more experience and is probably a heavier hitter, but Henoc will hit you pretty solidly too. I think Henoc has a chance to be better than Shea in the long run, just because he's faster."

Muamba took over from Pierre-Luc Labbe as the Bombers starting middle linebacker in Week 8 this season and never relinquished the job, going on to record 55 tackles, lead the team in special-teams tackles, take down a top Canadian weekly award in Week 13 and tie for the league lead in forced fumbles with five.

The Bombers are hopeful Muamba -- the first overall pick in the 2011 CFL draft -- can be a ratio changer for Winnipeg for years to come in a position many CFL teams use an import.

"It's definitely a stepping stone, especially coming off a season like we had," said Muamba.

-- -- --

Bombers placekicker Justin Palardy was rewarded for his field-goal accuracy this season when he was named Wednesday as the club's top special-teams player. Palardy has hit 36 out of 41 field goals this year, an 87.8 per cent success rate that would set a new franchise record for field goal accuracy if he can hold it through the final game of the season.

Palardy already owns the franchise mark, which he set in an abbreviated 2010 season when he went 26-of-30, or 86.7 per cent. "It's good stuff, but it'd be a little better if we were going into the playoffs," Palardy said.

-- -- --

Bombers defensive end Alex Hall has big shoes to fill. The last most outstanding defensive player nominee for the Bombers -- 2011's Jovon Johnson -- went on to take the league honour and make history as the first defensive back to do so.

It's very unlikely Hall will replicate that feat this season, but his nine sacks in just 14 games still put him third in the league sack race and now tops among voters on Winnipeg's defence.

But it's the games that he didn't play that were on Hall's mind on Wednesday as he discussed his nomination as Winnipeg's top defensive player.

"I know I could have helped the team get some more pressure on the quarterback and stop the run," said Hall, who missed Winnieg's critical last three games with a knee injury and will miss this week as well.

-- -- --

"I'd like to know about it today if I could. But yeah, as soon as possible...In our organization, there's three levels. Obviously the GM is in control of football operations and has the final say. And then we have the CEO on top of him, who hires the GM. And then we have the board of directors, who hires the CEO. So it all has to work down and the head coach is at the bottom."

-- Bombers head coach Tim Burke says he still hasn't heard officially whether the Bombers organization would like him back as head coach next season.

-- -- --

"I love Shea Emry. So when I say this, I'm not disparaging him: Sometimes Shea, he's got a wire that comes loose. And I don't even think he remembers that he did it."

-- Bombers head coach Tim Burke on Montreal's middle linebacker, who's gotten in hot water with the league a few times this season, including most recently when he punched Saskatchewan's Brendon LaBatte in the groin.

paul.wiecek@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 1, 2012 D3

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