Kelly circus has left town

KIRK PENTON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:26 PM ET

The media played the role of therapist yesterday, letting members of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers get their true feelings about Mike Kelly off their chest.

"It's going to be a breath of fresh air now for the city to be rejuvenated by new energy and a new attitude," centre Obby Khan said. "The irrational, erratic, circus behaviour is gone. Let's get down to business like the good old days.

"I'm just speaking how it is. I'm still trying to be very PC, but at the same time I'm letting people know that it was not a good atmosphere."

Asked to describe just how turbulent the 2009 campaign was, Khan said "on a scale of 1 to 10 it was roughly a million."

Kelly, who was fired by the Bombers on Thursday, clashed with fans and media during several controversies throughout the season. The players had never seen anything like it before.

"Absolutely. Every week it was something it seemed," quarterback Stefan LeFors said yesterday from Louisiana. "It was the Hamilton Spygate deal, Pacman (Jones), the (Derick) Armstrong deal in Week 1.

"It was like we were just the laughingstock of the CFL. It didn't seem like things were real. It was the weirdest season and team I've ever been a part of."

This coming from a guy who should have been the most grateful towards Kelly. The coach traded for LeFors in January and gave him his first chance to be a CFL starting quarterback.

He didn't last long as the starter, however. He struggled, got hurt, was replaced by Michael Bishop, took a pay cut and then had season-ending shoulder surgery. He said Kelly's offence certainly didn't help matters.

"It was tough in that it was frustrating for me and for the other players as well," LeFors said. "We were so limited in what we were doing, and everything we were doing was way different from obviously what any of us were used to.

"It's not that it was just different. It was stuff that, to be honest with you, we didn't believe in. I didn't believe in it. I tried."

Middle linebacker Barrin Simpson called the season "pretty traumatic." He said Kelly's behaviour negatively affected the team "to a certain degree," but he said the players did a good job of keeping it together.

"Some of the trust of the players was lost at times in the season," Simpson said. "The good thing about it is we had a good group of veterans who could keep the locker-room intact. We had to do a lot of maintenance this year, no doubt. We had to do a lot of policing and maintenance and keeping up of the spirits throughout the locker-room.

"I've never been around so much drama in a season, and the way guys handled it was incredible to me."

Simpson had his own run-in with Kelly, asking to be traded in September after Kelly tried to reduce his playing time, but that doesn't mean he found joy in Kelly's firing.

"No matter what happened throughout the season, I actually kind of liked the guy," Simpson said.

Khan believes Kelly had a lot of passion and loved the city -- almost too much -- and "ended up making the wrong decisions."

Simpson said getting the right people in place at the top and then winning will get the fans back on board.

Khan believes the Bombers are now on the right track towards making that happen.

"The uncertainty of wondering what's going to happen every day is gone," he said, "and we'll get back to playing Blue Bomber football."

kirk.penton@sunmedia.ca


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