The first practice under Winnipeg Blue Bombers head coach Tim Burke came and went, and his stamp on the team is already evident.
The football club went through a brief, one-hour session at Canad Inn Stadium Tuesday, a workout that was designed to give the players a better idea what the new coach expects when the full practice cycle starts Wednesday morning.
Starting his first practice almost 20 minutes early Tuesday, Burke stayed true to his promise over the weekend that the on-field sessions would see an increase in intensity and speed; one-on-one competition between players – receiver versus defensive back, defensive line versus offensive line – were a big part of Tuesday’s session.
"I was really pleasantly surprised; they bought into the way we’re going to practise," said Burke, who was introduced to the team as the new head coach by GM Joe Mack. "We finished our practice six minutes early, which means we were practising fast. I’m really happy with it."
Under former head coach Paul LaPolice, the Bombers did practise fast during drills, but players also did a lot of standing around during different sessions. Whether that changes as the Burke era unfolds remains to be seen, but initial reviews from the players regarding the new practice habits were positive following Tuesday’s workout.
Part of the workout featured something we’ve never seen from the Bombers in the last two-plus seasons: gassers.
A gasser is four wind-sprints, back and forth, covering the width of the football field. A handful of players were asked to do them after practice Tuesday, as punishment for some of the needless penalties they took in the B.C. game. Receiver Terrence Edwards went offside trying to get a jump on one of his routes Friday night. He promised he wouldn’t go offside again.
"The players have to take responsibility for those 13 penalties that we had (in that game," the veteran Edwards said. "We have to be smarter than (that). It’s always been the emphasis. Today, it was a little more emphasized. We (went) out and ran some gassers, and I haven’t run gassers in a long time.
"Coach Burke is trying to rectify that problem. I can tell you this: It’s going to be a long time before I go offside again."
The Bombers (2-6) take on the Saskatchewan Roughriders (3-5) in the Labour Day Classic Sunday afternoon. It will be a battle of the basement dwellers; Winnipeg is last in the East Division, while Saskatchewan sits last in the West.
Other notes from Tuesday’s practice:
- Defensive back Jovon Johnson (tailbone) defensive lineman Bryant Turner (leg) sat out Tuesday’s session. Burke expects both to be OK for the game in Regina, indicating Turner was going to take "a couple Vega days off" -- poking fun at defensive lineman Jason Vega's habit of resting various bumps and bruises during the week. Running back Chad Simpson (foot) took his regular early-week rest.
- Receiver Cory Watson, thought to be out of commission for the week with an undisclosed injury, was on the practice field Tuesday. He looks like he could be a player Sunday, too.