All about adjustments

JULIE HORBAL -- For Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 9:59 AM ET

The 2006 CFL season has been, is and will continue to be one adjustment after another for Richard Harris.

Not only is the first-year Blue Bombers defensive line coach adjusting to life in the Blue and Gold, he is also adapting to a frigid time in the less-than-balmy Manitoba climate and getting used to playing "Papa Bear" to a defensive corps that has recently required a bit of tweaking itself, both on the technical and mental ends of the game.

But accumulation of adjustments is really nothing new for the seasoned Harris, whose posting in Winnipeg marks his third stop in the CFL and fifth stint as a professional/semi-pro coach.

"Adjustments. Basically that's all it is. The game of football and the game of life are a lot alike," said Harris, who came to Winnipeg after spending one season as the D-line coach with the Ottawa Renegades and the three prior to that with the B.C. Lions.

"You've got to work to be better and to get things on track."

Harris, wife Tami and the family Husky arrived in Winnipeg to start house-hunting last March and the coach admits pretty much every aspect of living has since involved some level of adjustment.

The father of four grown children admittedly hasn't had much of a chance to get out much since making the move -- and the few opportunities he had have become even fewer and farther between since his squad has hit hard times.

"On the field, off the field -- we're working every day," said Harris last Tuesday, the first day back at work after the Blue dropped an abysmal 43-9 decision to Calgary.

"One thing I always tell players and I always tell people who criticize us for a lack of effort is what they should understand from a coach's point is we spend 12-13 hours a day, every day whether we are winning or losing. We work to win, but we can't play for them out on the field. Our job never changes."

At last Tuesday's practice, Harris did have one slight change in his job: giving the line which went into the Stamps game tops in the league before giving up 43 points, 522 yards offence and 238 rushing a strong dose of reality to cure a few players suffering from me-itis.

"We're not playing as well as we should at this point and I think we forced some attitude adjustments today," said Harris following the practice. "What was a curse to us was that we at one point were at 5-2 and people didn't expect us to be doing that well.

"When the other teams woke up, they realized they had to come with their A-game when they played us and they rose to that occasion. Our guys leveled off and didn't get as high as they should have. We had some attitude adjustments to hopefully prevent that from happening again and we have a different attitude of how we're going to approach games from now on."

Harris thinks the defence has gotten back on track and back towards "that better stage," but is not counting any chickens before they are hatched and reiterates that a coach is a coach both on and off the field, and it is a job that really never ends.

At least not in the back of a coach's mind.

"We're constantly scheming and then going out there and trying to get them to apply things," Harris said. "If the players buy into it, then things go well. If they don't, then we'll get you out of here and get someone else in here who wants to do what they're told."

Though every coach's style depends both on the coach and the players he is coaching, Harris is a firm believer in a standard formulaic job description: every coach borrows "a little from one coach and a little from another" to make the perfect fit for both captain and crew. For Harris, eight years worth of experience as an NFL player provided him with a solid basis and he feels he has finally arrived at his ultimate style.

"My style is basically to let guys have fun and enjoy what they're doing, but understand that they go to work and go to work to win," he said. "My big thing is ... I'd better not say that word ... You don't have to be a hard-driving guy to make guys perform. But at the same time you have to make them understand and respect that I want to win. Sometimes I can be as hard as I need to be, but I try to let men be men and make adjustments on their own. If they don't, I don't mind stepping in to be a real bear."

One thing promising to turn Harris into a true grizzly is the impending doom of the rest of the CFL season -- if only because it means Winnipeg will get even colder.

Which means Harris with either become very grouchy or go into hibernation.

"I came when it was snowing and everything and I was looking around for homes. The snow was not fun," said Harris, who admits coaching in Winnipeg while with the Lions and Renegades gave him a sense of what changing weather can be like.

"I've sort of seen it, but I'm not sure I can stand a whole long season in a Winnipeg winter. I'm going to Arizona."


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