Ramping up the urgency

PAUL FRIESEN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:33 AM ET

It was a short conversation with the tallest member of the team -- and possibly a glimpse into the long and short of what's wrong with the Blue Bombers this season.

Tuesday night, the day we found out Bomber defensive back Jovon Johnson's brother had been shot and killed down in Pennsylvania, I called lineman Doug Brown to get his reaction to the tragic news surrounding his teammate.

I made the call from an extension inside the media room at the team offices, and Brown obviously recognized the number on his cellphone display.

When he heard it was me, you could almost hear a giant sigh of relief.

Then he got annoyed.

"We're 4-8, and I'm getting a call from the Blue Bomber offices," Brown said. "Next time could you use your cellphone?"

The implication was clear: Brown was afraid he'd been traded.

Here's one of the Bombers' heart-and-soul players, one of the few to play up to his capabilities nearly every game this season, and he's still feeling insecure.

Perhaps that explains Brown's play.

He's refused to get comfortable, and he's arguably been the team's best player, on either side of the ball.

If I was voting I might make him the Bombers most outstanding player nominee, despite his relatively thankless job of being double-teamed in the middle of the D-line.

It makes you wonder where the Bombers would be if that lack of comfort had been instilled in all the players from Day 1.

I doubt they'd be 4-8.

Cal Murphy was a master at keeping players on their toes. Don Matthews, too, in his prime.

Current Bomber boss Doug Berry, in his first head coaching job, is obviously still learning.

Coming off a trip to the Grey Cup, Berry and GM Brendan Taman all but stood pat in the off-season, through training camp and nine weeks of the regular season.

Finally, after a lackluster offensive performance in Saskatchewan on the Labour Day weekend dropped the Bombers to 2-7, they shook things up, trading perennial all-star Charles Roberts.

Is it a coincidence the Bomber offence has looked completely different the last three games?

Complacency had set in.

The attempted trade of defensive veteran Tom Canada was the next jolt.

The Bomber defence put the screws to Toronto four days later, and now this team's on its first two-game winning streak.

I know, it's only been the Argos and Tiger-Cats.

But the Bombers look different: there's more energy, more desire.

The fact they barely got past the miserable Tabbies, and made plenty of mistakes along the way? Or blew that late lead against the Riders, three weeks ago?

Complacency breeds bad habits, and the Bombers still haven't shaken them all. They were mired deep, remember.

The sad state of affairs in the CFL East hasn't helped.

The players have known all along they could get back in the playoff hunt with a late-season push. And here they are, tied with the Argos for second.

"Everybody knew that," quarterback Kevin Glenn said. "We knew we weren't putting ourselves in a good position early on, but we knew if we continue to just keep hitting at it, keep hitting at it, it was eventually going to come. And we still could be in a race. And that's what happened."

Problem is, a good team, a team that's kept its edge, wouldn't have been satisfied with sneaking into the playoffs.

Players worried about keeping their jobs would have been much more ready for the season, instead of losing their first four games.

Berry has tried to ramp up the urgency for these final six games, saying his team needs five wins to guarantee a playoff spot.

The question is, does Berry finally have the attention of his players, or is it too late?

We'll start getting our answer tonight.


Videos

Photos