Doug Brown, always a hard-hitting defensive lineman and frequently a hard-hitting columnist, appears Tuesdays in the Free Press.
Recent articles by Doug Brown
Some sage Grey Cup advice from a couple of multiple-time losers4 minute read Preview Monday, Nov. 18, 2019
Life in the playoffs could have been easier for Blue with experienced QB5 minute read Preview Monday, Nov. 4, 2019
Collaros passes durability test, easily makes Bombers better4 minute read Preview Monday, Oct. 28, 2019
Defence big reason for Bombers’ success4 minute read Preview Tuesday, Sep. 17, 2019
If everybody received the credit they were due, there would never have been awards created for “unsung” players, or polls done to determine who the most “underrated” was. It’s fair to say that when it comes to the Winnipeg football club, and the successes they’ve experienced so far this season, the interior of the defensive line hasn’t quite gotten their due.
They haven’t exactly been ignored — it’s pretty hard not to notice the kind of disruption and flashes of physical dominance they display on a regular basis. But they certainly haven’t gotten the kind of attention that many offensive weapons and players such as defensive end Willie Jefferson and defensive back Winston Rose have received. It says here that the interior defensive linemens’ contributions should not be ignored and are a critical component of why this team is currently sitting at 9-3.
A quick review of the statistics, two-thirds of the way through the season, tells us that the defence is indeed good.
But what can we attribute to the interior of the defensive line? The obvious is to start with how Drake Nevis, Steven Richardson and Jake Thomas stop the run. These guys are so disruptive against traffic on the ground, you’d think they work construction for the city in the summer — on their off-days.
Bombers’ loss to Ticats no ‘off day’5 minute read Preview Tuesday, Jul. 30, 2019
It is not the fact that the Winnipeg Blue Bombers finally lost a game — after starting the season five and unbelievable — that should bother anyone. It is the fact that the Hamilton defence reminded the rest of the league how to beat them, and what the blueprint for it is.
You will hear all of the following platitudes this week: “We were never going to go 18-0 this season.” “It’s better to get a wake-up call early in the year than late.” “You want to be playing your best football as the schedule winds down, not as it starts up.” Yada, yada, yada. As worn out as these lines are, there are varying degrees of truth to them. And at the one-third mark of the season, this team is sitting in first place in the Western division, first place overall and has the Toronto Argonauts on deck. So any and all criticisms should still come from a place of a football team that is very likely going to be 6-1 in the near future and hosting the Calgary Stampeders at home.
Yet this game was more than just one of those days where things didn’t go right. It was a reminder to the rest of the league that even the team that looked virtually unassailable and unbeatable at times still has its own soft and vulnerable underbelly.
Quarterback Matt Nichols got full marks for owning his performance, and this game, on the post-game show. He lamented over his mistakes and errors with the football, and how it’s part of the job of being a professional quarterback. But do you really think that Nichols, after throwing for 12 touchdowns and only one interception this season, fresh off winning his 10th straight game for the Blue and Gold, just had a bad day at the office? Do you really feel he just woke up on the wrong side of the bed, put his athletic supporter on backwards and sprayed the football all over the field, tripling his interception numbers in a single day?
At the half it’s Bombers by a couple dozen… hey! Where’d everyone go?4 minute read Preview Monday, Jul. 22, 2019
Taking foot off gas is natural when you’re winning by four TDs4 minute read Preview Monday, Jul. 15, 2019
Speedy Whitehead gives Bombers long-missing offensive weapon4 minute read Preview Tuesday, Jun. 11, 2019
Streveler’s skills might not be best-suited to a CFL No. 24 minute read Preview Monday, Jun. 3, 2019
Winnipeg needs better performance from quarterback, receivers4 minute read Preview Monday, Nov. 26, 2018
Manziel a marvel in mayhem, but that doesn’t lead back to NFL4 minute read Preview Monday, Sep. 24, 2018
Blue outmaneuvered, outsmarted, outcoached when game on the line4 minute read Preview Monday, Sep. 3, 2018
Blue have golden opportunity to silence critics with win in Calgary4 minute read Preview Monday, Aug. 20, 2018
Bombers resoundingly refute notion of being a one-trick pony4 minute read Preview Monday, Jul. 30, 2018
Bombers’ game-day coaching reflects sober second thought5 minute read Preview Monday, Jul. 23, 2018
Inside information can make all the difference on the field4 minute read Preview Monday, Jun. 18, 2018
U.S.-trained defensive linemen face steep learning curve in CFL5 minute read Preview Monday, May. 28, 2018
Bombers threw sinking Durant a lifeline, and he set fire to it4 minute read Preview Monday, May. 14, 2018
Predators fan infiltrates whiteout, lives to tell the tale5 minute read Preview Monday, May. 7, 2018
Was it real, staged or a bit of both? No matter what, UFC comes out ahead4 minute read Preview Monday, Apr. 9, 2018
You over there — yes, you in the green shirt — put down the popcorn… you’re going in!5 minute read Preview Monday, Apr. 2, 2018
Johnson, Flory among those who should be on Hall of Fame shortlist4 minute read Preview Monday, Mar. 19, 2018
Argos’ re-signing of Wilder Jr. a master class in managing4 minute read Preview Monday, Mar. 5, 2018
CFL players, coaches not on level playing field when it comes to contracts4 minute read Preview Monday, Jan. 29, 2018
Bombers signing Durant a bold, brilliant and dangerous move4 minute read Preview Monday, Jan. 22, 2018
AFC championship a mismatch of biblical proportions, unless…4 minute read Preview Monday, Jan. 15, 2018
All hail Hall, it’s a sure bet he’ll be back with Big Blue4 minute read Preview Tuesday, Dec. 26, 2017
Bombers wouldn’t have far to look for new defensive coordinator5 minute read Preview Monday, Dec. 11, 2017
A sign of a good contract? Paying players for what they can still do, not what they’ve done4 minute read Preview Monday, Dec. 4, 2017
Argos need focused Ray, killer D and overconfident Stamps on Sunday4 minute read Preview Monday, Nov. 20, 2017
Keep Nichols, Harris out Friday, or it’s over for Blue and Gold5 minute read Preview Monday, Oct. 30, 2017
Successful coaches use deception as spice, not main ingredient3 minute read Preview Monday, Jul. 24, 2017
Hitting the road for home games could be key to Bombers’ success4 minute read Preview Monday, Jul. 17, 2017
Building on ball-hawk defence and patient, inspired offence key to Blue striking gold4 minute read Preview Monday, Jun. 26, 2017
Some good, some bad for Blue in Regina pre-season opener4 minute read Preview Monday, Jun. 12, 2017
Bombers pre-season action far more important for offence unit timing4 minute read Preview Monday, Jun. 5, 2017
Football camp powered by generous athletes putting in time4 minute read Preview Monday, May. 29, 2017
Few players look forward to time at pro training camp4 minute read Preview Monday, May. 22, 2017
When the Navy Seals came up with the mantra, “If it doesn’t suck, we don’t do it,” it’s quite possible one of them had, at one time, experienced the banality of a professional football training camp.
Training camp, which kicks off Wednesday for Winnipeg Blue Bombers rookies and Sunday for veterans, is a lot like how you might picture your first visit to a correctional institute: if you’re new, nobody seems to really like you. You are to be seen but never heard from. New fish is just one of several different terms for a rookie, or newbie. You are tested, mocked and lightly hazed and any credentials you thought you might have had prior to that first walk to your prison cell — I mean dormitory — are quickly dismissed.
Your guards, or coaches, will yell at you for pretty much anything: a bad play, a good play, a missed play, an effort play, it doesn’t really matter. Some will do it because they are power tripping, some yell to make a statement or show you who how hyper-aggressive they can be and others scream at you as a form of correction or endorsement. At the start of camp, the first time one of the coaches has a meltdown and a tantrum, it is abrupt and startling. By the end of camp, the novelty fades into the background as common and regular as white noise.
From morning to night, the prison of training camp is scheduled for you and is completely inflexible. Wake-up time is scheduled, breakfast is scheduled, taping is scheduled, practice is scheduled, film is scheduled, treatment is scheduled. Rinse and repeat. Heck, shower time with your fellow inmates is scheduled. If they can film you doing something and watch it and correct it, they will do it. Once you think you’ve seen enough of a single play in practice rewound six times in a row, it will be rewound a seventh and then an eighth.
Wanted: CEO to carry heavy load in no-win situation; apply to CFL5 minute read Preview Monday, Apr. 17, 2017
Winning? Who cares about winning? This is fans in the huddle!5 minute read Preview Monday, Apr. 10, 2017
This year’s Jets, 2010 Bombers not so different4 minute read Preview Monday, Mar. 27, 2017
Salary cost-cutting runs throughout the Progressive Conservative government’s second budget, billed as “responsible recovery” with modest spending increases in key areas of health, education, justice and infrastructure.
Everything in place for Argos to thrive4 minute read Preview Monday, Mar. 20, 2017
This will be the first year, as a franchise, that the Argonauts literally have all of the pieces in place to take a run at creating a presence in Toronto.
We've all heard it before, though, the "maybe this time the Toronto Argonauts finally have what they need to become a viable entity in the CFL," and then disappointment inevitably sets in. Well, let me be the first to say that maybe, this time, the Argonauts finally have what they need to become a viable entity in the CFL.
Whether it was the wrong ownership group, the wrong stadium, the wrong coaching staff, the wrong players or the wrong leadership, the franchise in Canada’s largest market has always had reasons and excuses as to why they weren’t able to exact a response from the masses, but it now appears, for the first time in a long time, all of the water fowl are lined up in a row.
Lets start with the most important part of any franchise — which is often forgotten and which is a whole other column — the franchise quarterback. While Ricky Ray is no spring chicken at 37 and is coming off a season where he was limited to only nine games, he managed to lead the CFL in accuracy and completion percentage. While he is far from a slam-dunk from a marketing perspective, he has led three different teams to titles — one as recently as 2012 — and that is what counts the most.
CFL GMs have insider intel on free agents but rarely use it4 minute read Preview Monday, Feb. 27, 2017
What the Bombers’ off-season stability means4 minute read Preview Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2017
There are distinct differences in the free agency experience — for both the fans and the franchise — when a team is coming off both a playoff appearance and a winning campaign such as the Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ 2016 season.
The roster tinkering becomes more specific and focused and the optimism for continued growth and team betterment becomes palpable.
If there were two themes that were recurring before last year’s turnaround and since the last successful season of 2011, it was either the team wasn’t doing enough in the off-season to improve, or it had done so much that it wasn’t clear whether the Bombers would actually be better or worse. Not only does winning fix everything, but it changes everything too — and this off-season, we are seeing the evidence of this.
Going into 2016, there were questions about the offensive line, quarterback, kicking game, running game, passing game and the defence — and there were sweeping changes made to address these concerns. Through one of the biggest shakeups in Blue Bombers roster history, many of these concerns were put to rest after last year’s free agency frenzy.
For Bombers to dream of Grey Cups, QB Nichols needs to take his game to all-star level3 minute read Preview Monday, Jan. 23, 2017
Looks like it’ll be a Rodgers-Brady showdown on Super Sunday4 minute read Preview Monday, Jan. 16, 2017
This is the NFL weekend everyone’s been waiting for all season4 minute read Preview Monday, Jan. 9, 2017
Self-reliance should be Bombers’ 2017 resolution4 minute read Preview Monday, Jan. 2, 2017
As far as New Year's resolutions go, this is going to be the shortest list of self-improvements the local football team has had to reflect on in ages.
While previous seasons have had chapters and tonnage of self-improvement themes and critiques, when you finish a campaign at 11-7 — and were unfortunate to not have made it to the Western final — you certainly don’t need to yard sale the entire lot.
In fact, there were many positive traits identified in 2016 the Winnipeg Blue Bombers should continue to emphasize and enhance.
They have continuity and some ingenuity with the front office and coaching staff, and buy-in from the majority of the roster.
Competition, not coddling, brought out best in Ottawa QBs4 minute read Preview Monday, Dec. 19, 2016
QB Burris’s quandary? To go out on top, or let injury end his career4 minute read Preview Monday, Dec. 5, 2016
Stubbornness and hubris defined the 2016 Grey Cup4 minute read Preview Monday, Nov. 28, 2016
Everything you need to know about the buildup to the 104th Grey Cup in Toronto can be explained by the screenplay He’s Just Not That Into You, but the CFL still refuses to give up on this one-sided relationship.
Gifting the Grey Cup to Toronto three times in the past 10 years is the social equivalent of sending someone three text messages over 10 days, getting no response, but showing up on their doorstep anyway.
If the city and its greater populace is not interested in the game and the classic Canadiana that accompanies it, then forcing it on them only leaves you looking desperate and too eager.
It is understood the championship game is often awarded to new ownership groups and struggling franchises as a means of recouping some of their losses and investments, but when your gracious gestures and invitations are ignored and dismissed time and again, it’s time for a different approach.
Lions QB loves to throw, Blue Bombers defence loves to intercept4 minute read Preview Monday, Nov. 7, 2016
Bombers’ body of work suggests team better than the one that lost to Ottawa4 minute read Preview Monday, Oct. 31, 2016
Nichols-led gritty offence complements Bombers’ dynamic defence4 minute read Preview Monday, Sep. 12, 2016
Nichols has benefit of better protection4 minute read Preview Tuesday, Sep. 6, 2016
On a five-game winning streak, and a five-game run as the starter of this football team, there is no debating Matt Nichols is the No. 1 pivot of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers for now and into the foreseeable future. Yet now he has an equal body of work in 2016 as Drew Willy does, it is an interesting comparison to examine.
While their records are near opposites, at 1-4 for Willy and five and flawless for Nichols, the rest of the stat lines are a curious study. Over the course of five games they have attempted approximately the same number of passes — 191 and 177 — have completed almost an identical percentage — 71.7 per cent for Willy to 71.2 per cent for Nichols — and have both thrown for just over 1,400 yards — 1,473 to 1,448. In fact, they have had near identical results in each of their five games as starters except for three major details: the records, the touchdown-to-interception ratios, and the number of sacks they’ve taken.
While the rest of the passing statistics may be a dead heat, in his five starts, Nichols has thrown for seven touchdowns and only a single interception. Willy, conversely, threw for five touchdowns, and four interceptions in his five games to start the season. If there are any amateur football players out there still not convinced about the importance of ball security, I rest my case. Not turning the football over has easily been the biggest performance factor Nichols has brought to the table, and it is directly correlated with the number of consecutive wins this team has been able to put together.
Yet while going over these numbers, I needed to further validate the feeling Nichols has pretty much been blessed with the good fortune of operating from the warmth of a Kevlar cocoon, while Willy was doing his best Denzel Washington impression in Man on Fire during his tenure. The statistics appear to support this conclusion, including something you might not have paid much attention to. In his five starts, Willy was sacked 16 times. In Nichol’s five starts, he has been dropped eight times, or half of what Willy experienced. While I didn’t have the numbers of how many times they have been hit in addition to being sacked, I would bet dollars to donuts Willy was likely hit at least twice as much, too. Since neither one of them is particularly elusive or mobile, it is fair to say operating conditions have been vastly superior in the pocket for Nichols.
First commandment of pre-season: thou shall not overreact5 minute read Preview Monday, Jun. 20, 2016
Media non-athletes break a sweat to try CFL skills5 minute read Preview Monday, May. 16, 2016
It is the dream of any professional athlete who has suffered through a difficult or ruinous season: turn the microscope around at those who evaluate and critique their work, and see how they themselves would fare in a similar scenario.
This past Saturday, nearly twenty media members -- from local radio and television, to print and national networks -- showed up for the brainchild of Jeffrey Bannon and Christine Hoenisch: the first annual Media Combine by Kidsport, an organization that helps fund children who want to play organized sports.
These brave media participants were invited to try their hand at some of the fundamental testing that aspiring pro-footballers go through. While the media types commendably aimed to raise awareness for the charity, they also dispelled any notions that they may have what it takes to do more than just comment on matters in the sporting world.
For the first time in most of the participants' amateur and recreational sporting careers -- with a few exceptions -- their athletic prowess was put on display and they were measured, timed, filmed, critiqued, and compared to not only the 2016 CFL combine results, but the nearly 100 Kidsport kids who came after them and were put through the same paces. To give you an idea of the media results, former lineman Obby Khan remarked that, by comparison, he left the exhibition feeling almost, "superhuman," and like "an Olympic-calibre decathlete."
Fans’ fun ruined by coaches’ challenges, reviews5 minute read Preview Tuesday, Apr. 12, 2016
Professional football continues to change dramatically, and therefore, so must its fan base.
With more and more challengeable fouls and video reviews, admirers of the game must now guard against a wide-spreading phenomenon called “premature cheering.”
Yes indeed, proper etiquette for celebratory theatrics now has a new timeline. You no longer share your jubilation after a play, high-five those around you and voice your appreciation for the efforts you just witnessed on the field. No, if it’s a scoring play, you hold your applause until the play is reviewed and remotely approved by someone at master-control central in Toronto, and then you wait a little longer until you are sure the opposing head coach isn’t going to throw one of his several challenge flags. Then, by all means, yell and scream until you are blue in the face.
This may be an over-dramatized reaction to another onslaught of challengeable calls and another video official in the CFL for 2016, but it often seems factors such as the fan experience are not taken into account when these measures are implemented.
Some advice for Onyemata: take advice with a grain of salt5 minute read Preview Monday, Mar. 21, 2016
Bombers have opportunity to prove their fortitude in upcoming games4 minute read Preview Monday, Sep. 28, 2015
Vanilla playcalling took the flavour out of Marve’s multi-faceted attack4 minute read Preview Monday, Aug. 17, 2015
Argos will help Blue douse junkyard tire fire4 minute read Preview Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2015
Last week's suggestion in this space the Blue and Gold didn't yet have an identity was entirely incorrect.
It was right in front of us the whole season, but we just couldn't see it; like one of those 3D stereograms where the picture doesn't look like much of anything until you stare at it the right way. No, the identity of this football club appears to be one of duality. It is a team that, seemingly on a week-by-week basis, alternates from being a supremely competent and promising squad, to a three-alarm tire fire billowing black smoke into the air, and back again. It alternates from one to the other, and each distinct personality seems to trigger the next upheaval and subsequent ascension or descent.
If you need further convincing, go back to Week 1 and tell me this trend and pattern doesn't have legs. In the regular-season opener against Saskatchewan the Blue were flawless. Quarterback Drew Willy had a perfect passer rating, the run game was formidable, and the offence was balanced. Sure it was Saskatchewan, a winless team now, but the Riders couldn't yet have known they would be this bad, that soon.
The next week the Bombers were a disaster against Hamilton, where they gave up 52 points and had their pivot knocked out of the game. Then they switched back to respectability with a moderately impressive win over Montreal, which preceded the self-destruction of losing to Calgary when they had them on the ropes.
Blue and gold must play bigger and better in coming weeks4 minute read Preview Monday, Jul. 13, 2015
CFL drug policy not perfect but best it’s ever been5 minute read Preview Monday, Jun. 15, 2015
If the Canadian Football League was officially founded in 1958 — only the Grey Cup has been around some 103 years — it is safe to assume that its performance enhancing drug policy has been completely scrutiny free for 57 consecutive years, though that is mainly because it never even existed before 2010.
In case you missed the breaking news last week, the CFL has decided that from now on it will be taking its urine elsewhere to be tested. Yes indeed, after only four years of actually having a policy, the league has now come under fire to the end that not only are their rules inadequate, but somehow also performance-enhancing-drug-enabling.
To catch you up, it all began when a number of players attempting to enter the CFL — six over the last two years — failed CIS drug tests but were still permitted access to try out for the league. An agent and a CIS coach promptly sounded off on this injustice, and then a race began between the CFL and its Canadian testing centre to see who could break up with whom first.
It seems though, with all the vitriol and vinegar being sprayed on this drug policy, and the pressure to instantly amend it, we have forgotten one thing. Unlike the CIS that reigns over its student athletes and is able to change its drug programs on a whim, or to whichever way a favourable wind is blowing, this policy is collectively bargained. And for those of us who don’t know what collective bargaining means, it means that neither the CFL or the players' union can just go out and make a decision independent of one another. Just because some drug testing extremists have mounted their soapboxes and announced that the existing policy is beneath their standards and moral high grounds, doesn’t mean it can change overnight. If it took 53 years for a policy to even be created and implemented, Year Four might be a little premature to flush it and completely condemn it.
What’s deflating is that the NFL let it happen5 minute read Preview Tuesday, May. 12, 2015
In the realm of "Deflategate" and Tom Brady's alleged involvement, if personalizing air pressure in game balls is such a decided advantage, then why did the NFL let it happen?
This probably won't surprise you, but the first time I witnessed the rules being broken in the NFL was in one of the first games I ever played.
It wasn't even the regular season yet, just the third pre-season game at home, as I watched in amazement as a soon to be Hall-of-Fame defensive lineman stood in the shadows of the tunnel that led out to the field, and raised his hands over his head as the equipment manager vigorously shook a spray can and applied a fine layer of some substance across his chest. I later found out his jersey was being sprayed with silicone so when he played, opposing offensive linemen would have an impossible time trying to grab a hold of it.
As I came to find out, this was so commonplace -- players doctoring their jerseys with slippery substances and opposing players complaining to officials about it during games -- that the NFL started doing "random" equipment checks of linemen before games, and imposing punishment. The silicone spraying died off with these reactive measures and consequences, so linemen next started rubbing vaseline all over their arms, "to cut the wind and keep their exposed limbs warmer," or so they explained to us rookies. The fact their arms were slippery as all hell and they rubbed those arms on their jerseys all game was merely a coincidental factor, I suppose. After that, offensive linemen started cutting the shoulders and sides out of their uniforms so defensive linemen wouldn't be able to grab them and use them as handles.
Be nice to me, I used to play football4 minute read Preview Tuesday, Apr. 14, 2015
Today's column is brought to you from inside a jail in Boston, Mass.
The jail, now called the Liberty Hotel, has long been decommissioned as a prison complex and refitted to swanky hotel standards, but it's hard to resist the irony of the NFLPA selecting this spot -- of all the hotels in Boston -- as an accommodation for many of its former players going through the "Brain and Body" program recently made available. Truth be told, Aaron Hernandez, the former New England Patriot currently fighting murder charges, is staying not too far from here while a jury deliberates his future, but that's another story.
The NFL and the NFL Players Association are now bending over backwards to take care of former players. It's a feel-good story to be sure, but one that has come about largely because of the negativity and accountability created by the near-billion-dollar class-action settlement recently awarded to some 4,500 players. I decided to take advantage of this opportunity to see how legitimate the program was, while discovering what, if any, kind of irreparable damage I'd done over the course of both an NFL and CFL career.
Less than three hours after my Sunday night arrival, I found myself lying in a sleep observation room with more than 20 electrodes taped to my head, neck and legs, breathing tubes up both nostrils and a microphone on my esophagus. I was told I would be under constant video surveillance for the night.
Time to help charities kick off campaigns4 minute read Preview Tuesday, Apr. 7, 2015
IT is common knowledge Manitoba is home to many of the most charitable people in Canada. Here, it is never about whether you are giving back or doing your part in the community, it’s always about how and in what way.
Today’s column showcases three incredible annual events that have resonated with me during my time in Winnipeg and, hopefully, they will strike a chord with you as well.
Starting May 30, the annual Motorcycle Ride For Dad kicks off with a parade of poorly muffled bikes shaking the foundation of the city as they rumble down Portage Avenue, stopping at Assiniboia Downs, then continuing on to Gimli.
With more than 1,300 bikes participating in 2014, whether you ride or not, this is a spectacle that needs to be witnessed. This ride, in its seventh year in Manitoba, raises money for research, education and awareness for the fight against prostate cancer.
Let Sam’s skill set be deciding factor4 minute read Preview Tuesday, Mar. 24, 2015
The narrative that once told us Michael Sam was not being given a serious shot in pro football because he was the first openly gay player in the NFL, is now being changed to whether his unique status is affording him more chances than his skills have warranted.
After going through his second NFL testing combine in as many years -- this time at the "NFL veteran combine" on Sunday -- not only is he still generating unimpressive numbers, but it appears he may be getting slower as well.
To get you up to speed -- or the possible lack thereof -- Sam was taken in the last round of the 2014 NFL draft by the St Louis Rams. In spite of his collegiate accolades and accomplishments, he did not test or show well at the 2014 combine and therefore fell in the draft rankings. Not unlike many seventh-round draft picks, Sam was cut in training camp by the St. Louis Rams and spent some time on the Dallas Cowboys practice squad before being released yet again.
He then applied to attend the NFL veteran combine, and was given another opportunity to demonstrate the ascension of his skills and tools. Unfortunately, the problems and limitations that plagued Sam in the past don't appear to be going away any time soon.
How the Big Blue can contend for Grey Cup4 minute read Preview Tuesday, Dec. 30, 2014
New year's resolutions are aptly suited to the realm of professional sports for no reason other than the fact teams operate in an environment that is constantly changing and evolving. Whether they are still spotted from the champagne of a championship won, or near the bottom of a nine-team league, if your local squad doesn't have a list of measurable ways it can get better over the course of a new year, they have already been defeated.
So in the spirit of self-improvement, here are some 2015 resolutions and suggestions for a football team with aspirations of becoming the next home team in the Grey Cup.
-- Would the No. 2 receiver please stand up?
While there were 180,000 reasons why the No. 2 receiver was supposed to be Clarence Denmark and not Nick Moore, because of injuries that limited Moore to only nine games, he inadvertently became the most expensive Plan B in the CFL. At one point last season, Aaron Kelly was in the mix to be a first or second option, but he was unceremoniously dropped from the rotation -- a source said it was due to his passivity around the football. Denmark needs at least one dynamic and durable counterpart in 2015 if the Bombers hope to field a viable air attack other teams will be forced to respect.
Tools fine, rational mechanic needed4 minute read Preview Tuesday, Dec. 23, 2014
IN April of 2014, we took a peek through a door to the alternate universe of Gary Etcheverry, where he shared with Bombers employee Kim Babij-Gesell his first order of business was, “...telling these players, you’re going to have to forget everything you think you know about football. And if they are successful in doing that, I think we’ll be able to make real sweet music together.”
We can’t be certain the resulting Barry Manilow LP playing in reverse was because the players actually did forget everything they knew about football, or because they didn’t wipe their memories completely clean like he wanted, but suffice to say, no matter who is hired in 2015 — sources say it will be Richie Hall or Mike Benevides — they better start resetting their football minds to the original default settings.
While this group did not come close to achieving the goals their former co-ordinator set out for them, there is a good chance with a more conventional system this roster of players will only need to be tweaked and augmented to be successful, instead of being completely junked. For after spending time reviewing game film and practice habits of last year’s team, it became clear the system they tried to implement not only ran contrary to many football fundamentals, but it completely ignored addressing the biggest of their weaknesses.
To further beat the dead horse of last season’s inadequate run defence, you might be surprised to learn — or not surprised at all — this team never had a dedicated inside-run drill in practice. Not one the entire year. Sure there were running plays scripted during the team periods, but the Bombers defence in 2014 never once had a single period during practice where it explicitly worked on stopping the run.
Brace for return of Bellefeuille, Etcheverry4 minute read Preview Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2014
Like it or not -- with nary a peep from the Winnipeg Football Club as to the futures of their co-ordinators -- with each day that passes it becomes more probable they will continue their duties guiding the offence and defence in 2015.
When termination is on the agenda, the P.C. way to do it is to make it as clean, quick and painless as possible. Since it's been 45 days since the team had a game to play, and the holiday shutdown is imminent, unless they are squeezing as much work out of these gentlemen as possible before they make things official, it's looking like fans better get used to the idea of Bellefeuille 3.0 and Etcheverry 2.0 for next season.
If this is indeed the path to be travelled, one would hope the last seven weeks have been spent revamping and redefining the roles and expectations of these co-ordinators. While many fans won't be placated by even the greatest degree of changes to their philosophies, a number of adjustments could well help the outcomes.
If defensive co-ordinator Gary Etcheverry is to return, one would think it would be prudent to start off with losing the proprietary information paranoia. Many of us were aware the Bomber defence did not utilize playbooks this year, yet for some reason hearing it in detail from disgruntled ex-employee Korey Banks made it even worse — "....he just writes plays on the board and then erases them. As a player you feel uncomfortable as you have nothing to reference when studying," Banks said in an interview with Defend the R, the Ottawa Redblacks blog.
Battered Willy had no business playing B.C.4 minute read Preview Tuesday, Oct. 28, 2014
During the post-game show of your football club's most recent heartbreaking loss, Bob "The Voice" Irving asserted that had I still been a player on this team, there was no way I would have wanted anyone starting the do-or-die playoff-elimination game other than Drew Willy -- the pivot who had started 16 of 17 games for the Bombers -- and he had a solid point.
As good as Brian Brohm may have looked in two-and-a-half quarters against Calgary, he was out of commission with a hand injury incurred in that game, his first CFL start. That left Robert Marve -- the formerly third-string quarterback with even less professional experience -- and additionally, less regard from the coaching staff, as suggested by his position on the depth chart.
So if you were a player on the team, how could you have wanted anyone other than the most experienced pivot under centre, the man who had a hand in every single win? It sounds like a foolish proposition to debate over the airwaves, let alone consider if you had a vested interest in how the regular season played out.
It is one thing to write about -- like last week -- how Saturday's game vs. B.C. was an opportunity to see what else was in the QB coffers -- for future trade considerations -- but if you had the perspective of an active player, you couldn't want experimentation night to happen when all remaining hope was on the line, could you?
Ottawa loss shredded Blue psyche4 minute read Preview Tuesday, Oct. 14, 2014
This football game was never going to be a contest about whether the Blue and Gold could go into Edmonton and keep their playoff hopes alive against the mighty Eskimos. To many of us, it was only a test of whether the Bombers could pick themselves up off the floor and present a spirited front after having it handed to them by the league's worst team last week.
Every squad worth its salt likes to be told they can't do something and can't beat someone. Being told your opponent totally outclasses you and is out of your league is often all it takes to spur a superhuman effort from even the most lacklustre of teams. Yet having this gauntlet thrown down in front of them in Alberta, and coming face to face with a history of failure at Commonwealth Stadium, wouldn't have been what plagued the minds of these players going into this game.
All last week, this team had to come to terms with something much more difficult than winning in Edmonton: That they provided only the second win of the season to the expansion franchise Ottawa Redblacks, and it wasn't a win gifted by a calamity of errors or miscues. An Ottawa offence, that was and still is the most futile in the league, put up huge numbers and pushed Winnipeg's defence around. The Redblack defence, that had followed suit in the nation's capital this year, giving up the second-most points so far, had their way with Drew Willy and company, and turned their usual sub-par performances into something sublime. When the undisputed worst team treats you as their doormat, how does one recover?
So the question last week in practice that needed to be answered by the Bombers Monday was really one of fight or flight. Would this team have the fortitude and resolve to brush the dirt off their shoulders after being taken to task by the smallest kid in the schoolyard, and continue to believe in themselves and square up with their next opponent? Or would they crumble and wither throughout the remainder of the season, being wholly convinced the first third of a season was an aberration, and that whatever "mojo" they once owned, had long since departed and left them exposed?
Bye week should be more flexible4 minute read Preview Tuesday, Sep. 16, 2014
When your franchise quarterback is out for an undetermined amount of time, and your backup has started zero games in the CFL, it might be time to consider changing some bye-week vacation plans.
When you have lost five of your last six games and you're sitting alone in the bottom of your division, it is worth discussing whether to shorten the bye-week schedule.
Once upon a time, in a land far, far, away, "bye" weeks used to be optional for players. Getting an entire week off from football was up to the discretion of your coach. In fact, it wasn't until my fifth year in the CFL, in 2005, that I booked my first flight to leave the province. The reason I didn't go anywhere from 2001 to 2004? I had a head coach by the name of Dave Ritchie who thought the bye week was about as useful as malaria.
Most often, if you went to talk to Ritchie about the bye week, he wanted to know why you weren't focused on the games at hand. In fact, some seasons he would warn the team at the beginning of the year he didn't want to hear any talk about the bye week at all, and that was pretty much the end of that. If you did catch him on a good day, and asked him how much time you were getting off, he would tell you it depended upon how well the team was doing. If you had a losing record or had lost the last game before the bye week, he would schedule practices right in the middle of it and say, "the bye week is going bye bye." You could book a flight and make plans, but you ran the risk of the schedule changing -- the bye week being shortened or cancelled altogether. There was never any ambiguity about how he felt about taking a week off from the season.
Blue will win, cuz they got each others’ backs4 minute read Preview Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014
It's a lot easier to guarantee a win when you're retired, because, quite frankly, if you're wrong, who really cares?
I don't think I'll be wrong when I say the Bombers will roll tide over the Alouettes this Friday, and it's for one simple reason: When this team loses, they don't make excuses for their performances.
Case in point, when head coach Mike O'Shea was offered a softball of an excuse after the Toronto game, he wouldn't even step into the batter's box, let alone try and make contact with it. It seemed obvious to everyone that after only four days of rest since their last game, and leading at the end of the third quarter, a collapse in the final stanza would indicate fatigue had gotten the best of them -- but he wouldn't bite. The head coach would not excuse their performance due to a shortened schedule, and neither would any of his players. Coaches and players alike shouldered the blame and internalized it, and did not look for anything or anyone to pin their defeat on.
Throughout two of the three losses they have suffered this year, it would also be fair to say the defence has significantly outperformed the other two phases of the football team. Against Edmonton, the offence only contributed a single field goal. In the next loss to Saskatchewan, the defence, once again, held the opposition to only field goals and nine total points. These kinds of efforts by a defensive dozen are rare and spectacular, but they were wasted because they were not complemented by the offence or special teams. Conversely, it could be said special teams outperformed the other two phases in their third loss against Toronto, but you wouldn't know it after speaking with the players. Not only does this team not accept mulligans on their off days, they don't point fingers at one another, when a group of them overachieves.
Let the last two years go, fans; Bombers have4 minute read Preview Tuesday, Jul. 29, 2014
When trying to make sense of your feelings for this upstart football team, it is best to realize that you are essentially emerging from a two-year, dysfunctional relationship.
The problem that has arisen, of late, is our emotional baggage from 2012 and 2013 -- and for some since 1990 -- is affecting our relationship going forward with the 2014 Blue Bombers.
It seems many of us are half-hearted, even reluctant participants in this new tryst, and are simply waiting for the bottom to fall out from beneath us. We have been so downtrodden over the years, we are now skeptical and cynical about anything blue and gold that resembles a ray of sunshine or a glimmer of hope.
If the 2014 version of this football team has made a single point, it is that it is better at moving on and letting go of the past than we are. If there is an obstacle that a number of us fans, scribes, and former players have been unable to overcome, it is the fact we keep bringing our old issues and drama from the previous suitors to the table of this one. And as anyone who has been in and around the dating pool knows, the minute you start projecting your failures and insecurities from past relationships into your new one, it doesn't stand a chance.
Run ‘D’ might be weak5 minute read Preview Tuesday, Jun. 17, 2014
There's a saying in the reality-TV Jackass-era programming, that, "if you're gonna be dumb, you gotta be tough." Well, in the world of pro-football, if you're gonna be small, you better be fast, and be even tougher.
The two-week pre-season in the CFL is not the time to make definitive statements about a football team. While the optics of only being outscored by five points in two games are dramatically better than the 70 points they were outscored by in 2013, it is too early to predict what lies ahead for the 2014 Bombers.
It's difficult to gauge success or failure in the pre-season because each opponent you face has its own agenda in terms of starter exposure, game plan, and evaluation criterion. If you think you have your football team pegged before Week 4 or 5 of the regular season -- especially after as much change as this team has incurred -- you are fooling no one other than yourself.
The one thing the pre-season does, though, is provide a snapshot of what is being emphasized, and defensively speaking, we may finally be able to see the direction this Gary Etcheverry scheme is headed in.
Union talks the talk… then quickly taps out4 minute read Preview Tuesday, Jun. 10, 2014
The most important outcome of a successful negotiation between the CFL and CFLPA would be the fact the season would proceed without interruption, and the fans of Canadian football would not be penalized for their steadily increasing interest in the game.
That being said, I am surprised the final deal was reportedly worked out with a mediator going back and forth -- without the two sides stepping into a room again -- as it appears the CFL physically took the CFLPA behind their woodshed and made this deal happen with a switch of bamboo.
To that point, with a ratification vote looming, selling this deal to their membership, and walking away from the strong words, stances, and posturing put forth during negotiations will require a degree of spin-doctoring from the CFLPA executive, so let's get a head start and wade through it for them.
To begin with, in the proposed settlement, the CFLPA did eliminate the option-year provision for all non-rookie contracts. So all minimum contracts for veterans are now only one year. This would appear to have both positive and negative effects for the CFL. More talented bubble players from the NFL will be enticed to come to the CFL to try and relaunch themselves down south, but it also means the league will become more of a turnstile than it already is, with more, "here today, gone tomorrow," athletes, who are notoriously hard to market and brand. A realized positive for the existing players, though, is in the peak earning years of a veteran contract, the shorter the deal possible, the more money that can potentially be earned.
Every day of practice weakens resolve4 minute read Preview Tuesday, Jun. 3, 2014
For those of us still concerned about the ongoing labour dispute between the CFL and CFLPA, it is important to recognize that with each day that passes, with the players' full participation at training camp, the more remote any notion of a strike becomes.
The players, to a man, are pretty much playing this conflict entirely by ear, because none of them -- save for legal council Ed Molstad-- has any experience walking off of the job, and neither do I for that matter. Yet, you don't have to be an active player to know that with every practice, with every meeting, with every team drill, it gets harder and harder for a CFL player to step away from their commitment to football this season.
With the commencement of on-field activities on Sunday, even the best-laid plans begin to erode from the compelling force that is training camp. As a player, there are two things that disrupt both your physical and mental balance every season; the abruptness with how the season ends, and the overwhelming sense when it starts up all over again.
The day after your last regular-season game, or elimination from the playoffs, these athletes go from a regimented schedule where most every waking hour of the day is counted for, to a "to do list," of cleaning out your locker and saying goodbye.
Hammering together a deal needs to hurt a little4 minute read Preview Tuesday, May. 27, 2014
If nothing else, the negotiations last week between the CFL and CFLPA were an interesting study of bargaining tactics in a labour dispute that has rapidly escalated into hostilities.
To review -- from the documents made available to several media outlets -- the first formal proposal from the CFL Players' Association to the league appears to have been on or about May 7. By my count the CFLPA had 110 itemized proposals, of which 96 were declined by the league, seven were agreed to and seven were under consideration.
The major asks were for a minimum salary of $55,000 and the return to the revenue-sharing model that guaranteed 56 per cent of defined gross revenues.
On May 9, the CFLPA communicated the responses and counter offer the CFL put forward, which, it is fair to say, was not well received by the players. With a $1,000 increase to the minimum salary and an extra $100,000 added to both the salary cap and salary minimum with no revenue sharing, it was about as low as lowballing gets and was summarily rejected by the union.
Uh-oh, looks like players, owners digging in4 minute read Preview Tuesday, Apr. 22, 2014
There is some bad news and some mildly disturbing news. Which would you prefer to read first?
The only stories a team and a fan base coming off a 3-15 season look forward to in the off-season are those about flittering butterflies and the aroma of honeydew melons, so it is time to be as delicate as possible when I share a couple of eye openers from the last few days.
It has been almost two weeks since the CFL Players' Association (CFLPA) and the league had publicized, scheduled meetings in Calgary. Though it was conveyed to the players, in an email from their president, that "... it is still early in the process and talks have progressed," after the meetings with the league it was noted "... we still have not made any headway on the two crucial items of player safety and revenue sharing."
To refresh, by "player safety" the players are referring to how many times a week, during the season, the coaches can make them wear shoulder pads. Since the NFL has mandated their players can only have one fully padded practice a week during the regular season, the CFLPA has decided it makes sense their players are afforded the same courtesy, especially since they make considerably less than their southern counterparts.
Winnipeg fans exude negativity — because they care5 minute read Preview Tuesday, Apr. 1, 2014
Multiple Juno award winners Tegan and Sara have only been booed once in their careers — “...at the Winnipeg Folk Festival.”
Justin Bieber didn’t even attend the Junos Sunday night and was booed heartily after winning his fourth Fan Choice Award. Hockey parents now have to take an online course to learn about sportsmanship in this province and last week, Bryan Little of the Jets remarked how Winnipeg is distinguished by its negativity.
In case you missed his remarks, at the height of the “Baby-gate” scandal last week, he said, “We were joking around before that only in Winnipeg someone would say negative comments about the birth of a child. Then I heard someone actually did. I’d like to say I’m surprised, but I’m not.”
That is either one hell of a condemnation of the sporting environment here in Winnipeg, or someone is using the media and fans as the fall guys for a season of frustration.
Openly gay player’s top NFL challenge4 minute read Preview Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014
The biggest obstacle in front of Michael Sam, the NFL prospect who recently and publicly announced he is gay, is probably not what you would expect.
In my estimation, for most players in the NFL, he will simply be another athlete with a different story to tell. For those players who will have a problem with him, by the time he arrives at the team facility for the first time, even the thickest of them will have learned of the consequences for intolerant opinions and insensitive comments.
The attitudes of select coaches, general managers and owners -- some of the most old-school, conservative people in the entire fold -- will not be the biggest limitation on his draft status or ascension through the ranks either.
No, the biggest hurdle Michael Sam will have to overcome is the media attention that will surround his every move going forward and the public appetite that fuels this attention.
Deciding to dislike Sherman wasn’t hard5 minute read Preview Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014
Last weekend, in sixteen seconds of post-game interview, Richard Sherman divided the sport spectating community into two groups -- those of us who didn't like what we saw or heard, and those of us who felt it was no big thing, explainable, and not representative of what and who he is.
In the nine days since the interview, I have read column upon column, opinion after opinion, explaining, excusing, rationalizing and rarely condemning what happened. For those of us who were critical, we were asked to unearth the reason for our reaction and shortsightedness in passing judgment on someone we didn't know. It was thought we didn't pay enough attention to the circumstances surrounding the interview.
Circumstances such as the heat of the moment: "What do you expect when you stick a microphone in a player's face only moments after a heated exchange?" Or our fear of what we don't know: "People are frightened of physically dominant athletes with brains too." The educational pedigree: "Richard Sherman went to Stanford and graduated high school with a 4.2 GPA. How could he be a bad guy?" The race card: "If you don't like what he did, you're racist." He wasn't the first: "Muhammad Ali and countless other athletes professed greatness. Why can't he?" And the dedicated professional: "He watches a lot of film and is a student of the game. So he's a good guy."
In the past week, I've learned more about Sherman than many of the players I've played with. I now know where he grew up, where he played college ball, the challenges he faced and obstacles he overcame, how he changed positions, how he likes candy and how he wasn't drafted until the fifth round. I've also been told he is the perfect blend of athleticism and intelligence, and none of this changes my opinion one bit.
Some do’s and don’ts new Bombers boss should heed5 minute read Preview Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014
Just like Claude Noel, it is inevitable that Mike O'Shea will be fired. It is simply a matter of when.
Since the 2000 football season, the Bombers have given seven different head coaches the reins of the franchise. Two of these seven had previously been head coaches, and O'Shea is now the fifth consecutive one that will lose his head-coaching virginity in Blue and Gold.
The four previous rookie appointments had an average tenure of two years, a minimum employment of one year and a maximum candidacy of three years. Without a shadow of a doubt, O'Shea will eventually lose his job here -- they don't say coaches are hired to be fired just because it rhymes -- but wouldn't it be something if he bucked this trend?
Imagine a head coach of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers who kept his job for five, or even 10 consecutive football seasons? We can dare to dream, can't we?
Colts could ride comeback long way4 minute read Preview Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014
Professional football teams battle and joust with one another all season long, often for something that ends up being completely useless: the bye week. It doesn't matter if you made the playoffs by hook or crook, and whether you're the first seed or the sixth seed; as long as you get in, anything can happen.
In the CFL this year, the Toronto Argonauts won the Eastern Division and the Calgary Stampeders took the West. They did everything in their powers to ensure and secure they had a "win and in" scenario. They had an extra week of rest, an extra week of preparation and an extra week of game planning. All they had to do was win one game at home. Neither team could get it done.
We see it happen so many times it makes you wonder why football teams kick the hell out of each other to acquire something that so seldom pays dividends. It is a season-long investment with zero guaranteed return.
It is an accomplishment, for sure, to be one of the best teams in the regular season and to earn a week off. But those teams that think this affords them anything other than an extra seven days to get rusty and lose momentum are due for an unpleasant wake-up call.
NFL in danger of ruining its own game4 minute read Preview Tuesday, Dec. 24, 2013
The tackling options these days are best described by the words of a rebel warlord in the 2006 movie Blood Diamond when he queried, "Short sleeve, or long sleeve?"
It is a little dramatic, to be sure, comparing the option of having your arm or wrist chopped off with the decision-making of tacklers in 2013, but the point is there are no good options anymore. Hit someone too high, or get hit high, and you are either fined or subject to concussions and possible brain trauma. Hit someone low or get hit low, and your season/career can be ended by a ligament tear, or you are vilified as a coward.
As you should know, the NFL has been cracking down on helmet-to-helmet collisions on the field of play. Unless you're on the line of scrimmage, all helmet-to-helmet contact now results in penalties and substantial fines. And like any action taken, we are now seeing the equal, and opposite reaction from the players. When in doubt, like you are most of the time during a high-speed collision, players are opting to go low. The NFL is on pace for a record high of season-ending knee injuries. When forced to choose between a potential six-figure fine and someone's ability to play football for the rest of the year, players are choosing the latter.
The solution seems easy enough: Fine players for both going too high or too low -- but it isn't that simple. It never is. Granted, there are hundreds of different tackling scenarios on the football field, and players can be brought down in multiple legal manners. Yet there will always be scenarios that are unavoidable on such a small playing surface, like what happened to New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski when he caught a pass in an intersecting alley, with a hard-charging cornerback.
Secrecy surrounding protected list pure B.S.4 minute read Preview Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2013
Movies have been made about the acquisition and revelation of secret information. There have been Mission Impossibles planned to recover it, and it has been the objective of more than one James Bond assignment.
It is the new contraband of the CFL, clouded in secrecy to shield its players from the truth, and with a street value that will only increase as the days go by. It is all about the names that were, and were not on, "the list."
It matters little we are talking about unearthing the names of professional football players and not double agents living undercover around the world -- it is still an important list. It is a list of those protected and left exposed for the expansion draft. It is a list that is said to be kept from the public to "protect" the people on and off of it, and their work relationships -- which makes it worth finding out about.
After Monday's expansion draft, we now know only three of the players who were not protected by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers: Import Miles Wallace and non-imports James Green and Rory Kohlert. What we don't know and what I don't understand, is why the public wasn't privy to the complete list of protected players submitted by the member clubs over a week ago, and therefore, more importantly, the ones left off of it.
Expect new Blue field boss to set pace4 minute read Preview Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013
It is not every year a professional football team replaces its CEO, president, general manager, head coach, assistant GM, and soon to be offensive and defensive co-ordinators, along with possibly all the other position coaches too.
Yet when you score the fewest points in the 2013 regular CFL season, give up the most points, and tie the franchise record for fewest wins ever, it's better to err on the side of total reconstructive surgery.
Not only is this a historic flushing and turnover of prominent personnel, but watching the new management team being assembled is kind of like watching the casting of the 1988 western movie Young Guns.
The CEO is 40 years old. The GM is 40 years old. The oldest of this deputized trifecta is the head coach, who is a fledging 43 years old, and they are all rookies in their respective football positions.
Ticats were doomed from the get-go4 minute read Preview Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2013
The Hamilton Tiger-Cats never had a chance.
This was not a game between the Eastern and Western representatives of the Canadian Football League.
This was a game between the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and the entire province of Saskatchewan, and no matter how well the Ticats had played up to this point in the off-season, they didn't have a hope of bringing it home.
If Jonathan Martin -- the player that walked off the Miami Dolphins because of alleged abuse from Richie Incognito -- had been watching the 101st Grey Cup, he probably would have withdrawn his grievances from the NFL, and sent Incognito a thank you card for his warm welcoming.
Football the most primitive of sports4 minute read Preview Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2013
With his actions, Jonathan Martin is making the NFL locker-room accountable to the standards and practices of a typical work environment. The only problem with this is the locker-room in professional football is anything but typical, and unlikely to change anytime soon.
If you aren't up to speed with the goings on of the Miami Dolphins, here is what you need to know. Martin used to play offensive tackle for the team. He left because he says he was bullied, hazed and harassed -- mainly by Richie Incognito -- to the point he had to seek treatment for emotional distress.
The problem with opening this window into the culture of pro-football is what you see when you look inside. Physical and mental abuse and harassment -- to some degree -- is something that happens every day in this world. It is the byproduct and side effect of the most physical and aggressive industry there is.
The cycle begins with the fact, for the most part, veterans don't initially care for the new players continually introduced to the team -- rookies. This aversion is understandable. If every year at your place of employment, multiple younger and cheaper prospects were brought in to compete for your job, and eventually take it, you probably wouldn't greet them with open arms either.