Kelly calls out fans

KIRK PENTON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 12:57 PM ET

Mike Kelly believes Bomber fans crossed the line on Friday night when they booed quarterback Stefan LeFors -- after he had been pulled from the game.

The head coach called out the fans yesterday when discussing his post-game comments on Friday about LeFors' progress. Kelly told the team's radio rights holder that Winnipeg "isn't a great environment to try to groom anyone."

Asked to clarify those comments on Friday night, Kelly said: "It's just the schizophrenic reactions to wins and losses around here. There just needs to be some stability."

Kelly even compared the Winnipeg football environment to Philadelphia, which is known for relentlessly tough fans. He didn't back down from his comments yesterday and offered an explanation.

"Winnipeg might be there (with Philly) because we offered up a (LeFors) jersey for a charity when the guy wasn't playing, and we booed the player," Kelly said. "It was for a charity. And we were booing.

"Is it comparable to throwing snowballs at Santa Claus? I don't know if that's the case, but we did boo a player that wasn't in the game that was trying to help out a charity. I don't know if that's what Winnipeg is all about. I just don't know."

Some fans who heard the coach's post-game comments felt he was blaming them for the team's poor offensive play. Kelly said yesterday that fans need to relax and be patient with LeFors, even though it appears doubtful the struggling lefty will start next Saturday in Toronto.

'FRUSTRATION'

"I understand our fans' frustration. I have that frustration," he said. "I want the Bombers to have a ring more than anybody wants the Bombers to have a ring. I was here for two Grey Cup defeats. I know all this. I get all this. I understand the level of frustration, but it's tough on a young guy.

"... For me to walk through Wal-Mart or Canadian Tire, I know what kind of comments come towards me. So I can imagine what goes towards some of our guys."

Bombers president and CEO Lyle Bauer is standing behind Kelly, pointing out no one is under more pressure than the coach to end Winnipeg's 19-year Grey Cup drought. He noted that Kelly is bearing the cross of four title game losses since the team's last championship in 1990.

"The fans shouldn't take it like that. The only person that Mike Kelly is blaming is himself," Bauer said. "That's the nature of the beast, and people need to understand that it's a highly competitive person in a highly competitive business with a lot of pressure.

"There's a lot of pressure on this football club and this organization."

Kelly said he should have used the term "roller-coaster" instead of "schizophrenic," but that's about all he would allow. He wants all Blue and Gold supporters to get on board.

"We're trying to do our best, and eventually it's going to happen," he said. "I can ask for all the patience I want, but I know what it is. I get it. Let's just not boo anybody that's trying to help out a charity anymore, OK?

"That's not Winnipeg. That's not the Winnipeg I know. That's not the Winnipeg I want to know."

INJURY UPDATE: Canadian linebacker Pierre-Luc Labbe, who starts in Winnipeg's 3-4 defensive scheme, will be lost for up to four weeks after suffering a second-degree MCL strain in the second half on Friday night.

Meanwhile, receiver Adarius Bowman (hip flexor) will miss at least another week, according to Kelly.

kirk.penton@sunmedia.ca


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