No ill will from Ritchie

JIM BENDER -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 11:55 AM ET

It was the first time in 14 months that he returned to the sidelines of the Winnipeg field he once patrolled as the head coach of the Blue Bombers.

"There's a little bit of, 'How come I'm on this side of the field?'" Dave Ritchie admitted after hugging Bomber tailback Charles Roberts yesterday. "But that's all right. I work for a great guy and he gave me a job when I was kind of down and out."

That would be B.C. head coach/GM Wally Buono, who hired his old friend to become defensive co-ordinator of the Lions after Ritchie recovered from heart surgery last September -- only a month after being fired as Winnipeg's head coach.

"I tried my best, the fans here in Winnipeg were great to me," said Ritchie, who chose his words about the Bombers carefully. "I think that's what it's all about and history will take care of the rest. I'm happy doing what I'm doing."

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In fact, Ritchie denied there would be any extra satisfaction in beating the Blue Bombers today.

"I don't think so," he said. "As you get a little bit older, you can't let your emotions above your good sense."

Ritchie, 67, has dropped almost 50 pounds since falling under the watchful eye of Buono, who has also recovered from heart surgery.

"My health's great," he said. "I've just got a little bubble in my leg that will probably never go away."

And Ritchie would love to become a head coach again some day. In fact, his name has already been linked to Ottawa.

"If that happens, it takes care of itself," he said. "Do I still have some good years left? Oh yeah. Right now, I'm trying to do what we need to do here to be successful."

Buono credits Ritchie for the improvement in the B.C. defence this year.

"Dave's a proven winner," he said. "When you can add a guy like that to your staff, it makes you better, which I do believe we are."

But Ritchie's motivational speeches, which include drinking the good water and playing polo with decapitated heads, still leave his players scratching their heads.

"He's a crazy bastard," said B.C. safety Carl Kidd. "A lot of stuff he says, I'm just like, 'Wow! How did that come out of his mouth?' I expect that from him, though. Coach Ritchie's a good guy, but he's one of the craziest coaches I've ever had."

Ritchie, meanwhile, is a tad concerned about becoming a target on the east side today.

"I hope they don't throw anything at me," he said. "They used to throw things at me before I came in here (as head coach). So, I think we'll hear from them. I might have to wear a hat (helmet). But you've got to love the fans, they're great."


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