WINNIPEG - It sounds like the vacation is over on Maroons Road.
Player accountability will be increasing now that Bombers defensive co-ordinator Tim Burke has finally lived out his professional dream of becoming a head football coach.
“We gotta have a greater sense of urgency, and we’ve got to play with that relentlessness that we need to win in the CFL,” said Burke, who has an interim tag after Paul LaPolice was fired on Saturday. “I’ll probably do some things different than Paul did, because it fits my personality. As most of you know, I’m not a long-winded guy and usually go right to the point. And that’s the way I coach.
“You’ll see some changes in how we do some things in practice and make them a little shorter and more intense and a lot more competitive. So hopefully that translates to the way we play on game day.”
Burke had been a CFL defensive co-ordinator for Calgary, Montreal and Winnipeg over the last six years. Prior to joining the Stampeders, he spent 27 years as an assistant in the U.S. college ranks.
He interviewed to become Winnipeg’s head coach in 2010, losing out to LaPolice, and he was one of the finalists for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats head coach position last off-season, finishing as the runner-up to George Cortez.
“I have mixed emotions on this day,” the 58-year-old Kansas native said. “As you know, I’ve really wanted to become a head coach and I really relish this opportunity to prove that I can be a head coach.
“We have a lot of pride in our locker-room. We have a lot of Bomber pride, and I know the city has a lot of pride, and we want to make sure that we fulfil every opportunity we can to make people extremely proud of us. I’m very sad also, because Paul is my friend and he was very gracious after (Bombers GM) Joe (Mack) told him.”
Burke, who is the 29th head coach in Winnipeg Football Club history, doesn’t beat around the bush. He’s straightforward when you ask him a question, and he’ll be the same way as the new Bombers boss.
Improving team discipline will be one of his first tasks.
“There’s gotta be some repercussions for those penalties we had,” Burke said of Friday night’s penalty-fest against the B.C. Lions. “I’m going to make sure I take care of that. Again, it comes in practice, how you practise. There’ll be a different mindset. If a guy jumps offsides in practice, he’s going off the field right now. We’re not going to have that kind of stuff.”
LaPolice was hired to fix the team’s struggling offence, and he was fired in part because he couldn’t do it.
So while it’s a little odd the defensive co-ordinator is going to be tasked with putting more points on the scoreboard, he figures he can do it.
“How we practise, we’re going to have more competitive situations, more one-on-ones so that we’re competing at all times,” Burke said. “That’s one of the things I learned from (Alouettes head coach) Marc Trestman. He has a way to practise that is a very competitive practice. So we’ll adapt some of those practice habits.”
Burke hadn’t been on the job more than three hours Saturday when he was asked which quarterback would start next Sunday’s Labour Day Classic against the Saskatchewan Roughriders: Joey Elliott or Buck Pierce.
“Right now Buck is in about the sixth week of rehab, and his injury is a six to eight week injury,” he said. “I don’t know exactly where he’s at. I haven’t had a chance to talk to (trainer) Allan (Couture) about it, but that’s something that Joe and myself and Gary Crowton will sit down when the time comes.
“Buck came here, and he was the starting quarterback, and I don’t think he’s done anything to say he’s not the starting quarterback. On the other hand, you gotta be impressed with the way Joey’s playing. That’s a question for down the line, but I knew it was coming.”