Tim Burke says he wanted to use the Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ three-day mini-camp to set the tone for 2011.
Judging by the number of players doing pushups when they messed up, Winnipeg’s new defensive co-ordinator got his message across, loud and clear.
“Give me 10,” is invariably what you’ll hear from Burke if he doesn’t like what he sees in a drill.
And it doesn’t matter if you’re a rookie or a vet, as defensive back Jonathan Hefney found out, Wednesday.
“Which is a good thing,” Hefney said. “I’m used to it.”
So what kind of screwup gets a player on the ground, giving 10?
“If you don’t run to the ball. If you don’t strip. If we’re not scooping and scoring when the ball is dropped on the ground,” are three that Hefney rattled off. “Hopefully, we all can dig into it and make some more plays.”
The addition of Burke has the potential to be the most significant off-season move the Bombers made, at least if you look at his body of work the last three years in Montreal, where the Alouettes won two Grey Cups.
“Real serious about his job,” is how Hefney described him. “Very cool guy. Down to earth. He really don’t play no games. So it’s really all about focus and winning.”
Burke’s no-BS approach comes through the first time you talk to him.
“I’m probably a little bit laid back,” he said. “But I’ll drop the F-bomb if I need to to get people’s attention. I’ll blow up every now and then.”
Hefney guesses Burke was holding back a bit this week, saving his good stuff for training camp.
“He says he’s got a little bit more for us,” the third-year Bomber said. “He’s just halfway right now.”
Burke’s defensive mantra: attention to detail, which should come as no surprise, given where he came from.
The Als, under head coach Marc Trestman, were famous for practising everything, including how to line up for the national anthem.
“Why was Montreal successful the last couple of years? I don’t think it’s because we had better players,” Burke said. “I think it’s because we paid more attention to detail. We did all the little things right.
“My philosophy is if you pay attention to details, do all the small things, then the big things will take care of themselves.”
As for how his defence will compare to the one run by Kavis Reed a year ago, it sounds like Burke’s will be all about pressure.
“We’ll play a lot more man ... probably blitz more,” Burke said. “In zone, we’re going to knock the crap out of receivers when they’re trying to get down the field. Our front people are going to be more aggressive. Rather than sit there and read the offensive linemen, we’re going to take it to them, first.”
EYE-CATCHERS: Several new players caught the eyes of the coaches, Burke singling out defensive backs Chayce Elliott, Giancarl Rapanaro and Matthew Bucknor.
Head coach Paul LaPolice said returning running back Chris Garrett and newcomer Alex Henderson looked good, as did receivers Bobby Guillory and Timothy Brown, at least when they were healthy.
The biggest praise may have been for returning Canadian receiver Cory Watson, who drew raves from coaches, quarterbacks and DB’s.
“That’s a confidence builder,” Watson said. “I think I’ve improved a lot, in terms of understanding how to run my routes. Obviously there’s more stuff to be done... and I need to be more physical. Here you learn very quickly that guys are aggressive.”
BIGGER, BETTER: LaPolice called the inaugural mini-camp a huge success, and is hoping to expand it next year.
“It could be a big thing,” he said. “Do it on a weekend and get more fans.”