Bombers aim to bounce back

KIRK PENTON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:41 PM ET

Tim Burke was introduced to the local media for the first time in person on Tuesday, and the new Bombers defensive co-ordinator showed right off the hop that he’s going to call it as he sees it.

When asked about middle linebacker Joe Lobendahn, who officially re-signed with the Bombers on Tuesday, Burke didn’t sugarcoat things.

“He had a down year for him,” Burke said. “When he came into the league as a rookie he made a lot of plays. I just didn’t notice that from him this last year. But he was banged up, too, so I’m hoping that was the reason why.

“He should be a dominant player, and that’s where we need to get him.”

Lobendahn wasn’t expected to be back in Blue and Gold, but he didn’t garner much interest on the free-agent market. He came back to the Bombers and accepted a deal in the $80,000 range to stay in Winnipeg.

But for how long? The 28-year-old, who had 55 tackles and three sacks last season, will face stiff competition in training camp from youngsters like Rico McCoy, who joined the team late last season. In fact, Burke believes there is a bevy of Bomber talent on the defensive side of the ball.

“They were young last year, so they’re learning,” Burke said. “If we can improve maybe some of those nine games that were decided by a touchdown or less, those can be improved upon. There’s a lot of talent there to work with.”

Burke brings to Winnipeg a different defensive philosophy than that of his predecessor, Kavis Reed, who left to become the head coach of the Edmonton Eskimos in December.

“I’m more of a man cover guy, and Kavis is more a zone guy,” Burke said. “But it all depends on what our players can do best. I’m not going to try to fit square pegs into round holes.

“But I think our defensive backs are pretty good, so I think we can play man coverage and do well.”

The first priority for Burke, who spent the last three seasons as the defensive co-ordinator in Montreal, is finding a replacement for defensive end star Phillip Hunt, who signed with the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles on Feb. 11. He doesn’t believe that man is currently on Winnipeg’s roster.

“I haven’t seen anybody that I think can move in and replace him to that calibre of play,” Burke said. “I know (GM) Joe (Mack) is looking for some guys down in the U.S., and I don’t think there’s anybody in the Canadian draft that is going to be anywhere close to him.

“It’s going to be somebody coming up from the U.S. that’s going to take his place probably.”

kirk.penton@sunmedia.ca


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