Passion for Peg fans wins out


, Last Updated: 8:49 PM ET

Hes been a fixture on the Winnipeg Blue Bombers coaching staff the last five years, easily its longest serving member.

But universally respected defensive line coach Richard Harris came this close to leaving for the rival Saskatchewan Roughriders.

What could have been a damaging split between Harris and head coach Paul LaPolice was averted when Harris was named assistant head coach.

More important than the title is the chance for the former Louisiana resident turned year-round Winnipegger to have more of a say in the overall direction of the team he just couldnt leave.

Thats something Im looking forward to... hopefully being able to make a few decisions here and there, about the direction we are going, Harris said, Tuesday. We work well together as it is. But I would definitely like to close any gaps that might have been.

Harris, 62, said he would have liked a shot at the defensive co-ordinators position filled by Tim Burke.

That would have been a good one, he said. But thats not to say, now. We have a good DC here now, and Im looking forward to working with him.

Harris wasnt even interviewed for the position. Asked if LaPolice gave him a fair opportunity, he hesitated.

I would rather not talk about me as a DC at this time, he said, chuckling.

But he wanted to set the record straight on one thing: anybody who doesnt think he could handle the Xs and Os is sorely mistaken.

Id like to X and O with anybody out there that has the feeling I dont know what Im doing in that position, Harris said. Some of the decisions weve made as defensive units over the years, Ive had a lot to do with that.

As for turning down his good friend in Saskatchewan, new Riders head coach Greg Marshall, Harris compared it to losing a family member.

Its the hardest thing Ive had to do in my entire life, he said, getting emotional at one point. To me it was like going back home to bury my brother. Thats how close we were, or we are. We will always be close, but he understands that was the decision I had to make.

He made it because Winnipeg has become home.

For my passion for Manitoba and Winnipeg, he said. The people here that I work with and the fans and friends that I have gotten to know.

I came here to try and help us achieve a championship one day. Im still working on it.

Veteran lineman Doug Brown was glad to see Harris stick around.

Hes a key ingredient, veteran lineman Doug Brown said. Hes a master motivator. Hes just a pleasure to play for.