The question remains, with the end of the long and frustrating season in sight, did the Blue Bombers simply quit in Vancouver late Saturday night?
Two weeks before, Winnipeg had whipped the B.C. Lions 44-23 and a week before, the Toronto Argonauts needed to beat Winnipeg on the last play of that CFL game. Then, B.C. embarrassed the Bombers 41-1.
"The most disheartening thing right now is that last week (versus Toronto), we had no quit in us whatsoever," Bomber defensive lineman Joe Fleming said after Saturday's loss. "I mean, we were down by 10 points with two minutes left and we fought back to tie that game up and that was just a tremendous effort, with a lot of heart. We didn't show that same effort or heart (Saturday)."
But Winnipeg head coach Jim Daley was not about to accuse his players of quitting.
"If I agree to that, then it's a blanket statement that would apply to our team and I don't think it applies to a large group of our players," Daley said yesterday. "But if an individual did or some did, then it's obviously unacceptable. They would know that first and I would not say that that would be characteristic of our club.
"We did not play with the intensity and I think there is a difference between not matching the intensity that we are capable of and what you are asking (quitting). As human nature as it is for it maybe to happen (to a team that is out of the playoffs), it is unacceptable and that is the message our players have received. We expect better from our team and we need better from our team."
If not, those players will also have to answer to Fleming.
'Going to be pros'
"We are going to be pros and we're going to finish this thing up right at home, the way it's supposed to be done," he asserted. "Overall, we couldn't match (B.C.'s) tempo and effort and that showed. That's unacceptable and that won't happen (this Sunday when the Bombers host Calgary). That will definitely not happen."
JOB WORRIES: Daley was asked once again if he was concerned about his future as head coach.
"If you spend time being concerned about that, then you're not spending time on what you should be doing," he replied. "I'm concerned about the Calgary Stampeders, period. Next question."
INJURY WOES: Club GM Brendan Taman, who is also on the hot seat, has been scrambling to be able to field a full roster when the Stampeders come to town. The Bombers could be short three OL -- Matt Sheridan, Aaron Fiacconi and Dan Gyetvai -- all with strained knees. And both rookie DE Gavin Walls (hamstring pull) and P Jon Ryan (sprained left ankle) are doubtful. To make matters worse, backup DE Antwone Young has left the team to attend to some "personal matters," Taman said.
Taman has asked recently-released OL Cory Annett to return and figures import OL Ryan Bachman could come off the practice roster. Canadian OL Marc Parenteau could also dress as a backup. If Walls cannot play, either import LB Ron Ockimey would be converted to DE or Fleming would slide over with Jon Oosterhuis starting at DL.
SETBACK: The Stampeders, who were 4-14 last season and started their own rebuilding project long after Daley had begun his, clinched their first playoff berth since 2001 when they won their ninth game of the year on the weekend.
The best the Bombers can now finish is 6-12 after posting a 7-11 record last season.
"When the team plays as poorly as we played (Saturday), it indicates a major setback," Daley said. "That is obviously a big concern as head coach. Our fans, our organization and our team deserve better. But we as players and coaches are the ones who have to produce that effort.
"If we don't play at the top of our game, then we're way behind our contemporaries, our peers. When you lose (41-1) and play the way we did, which is way below how we've been playing, it clearly shows the gap between our team and the next team."