New coach cracks whip on Bombers

New Bombers head coach Tim Burke cranked up the energy at practice on Tuesday in Winnipeg. (Jason...

New Bombers head coach Tim Burke cranked up the energy at practice on Tuesday in Winnipeg. (Jason Halstead/QMI Agency)

PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:17 AM ET

WINNIPEG - That sound you heard emanating from St. James around 11:10 Tuesday morning was the cracking of Tim Burke’s whip at his first practice.

The new Blue Bomber boss didn’t waste any time implementing his philosophy, which can be summed up in two words: no nonsense.

Or maybe hard-ass fits better.

Some players said it was like they were back in college. Some loved it, some we’re not so sure.

But everybody agreed it was something else.

“You can tell there’s been a distinct mentality change,” veteran O-lineman Glenn January said, sweat dripping from his mug. “I’ve never practised in this format before.”

The new “format” included few breaks, sprinting from one drill to another and lots of one-on-ones between starters on offence and defence.

Asked to expand on the change, January said there is less room for excuses “as far as when you’re supposed to be in a certain place. On the field, in the meetings — everywhere.”

There’s even a new horn system to signal the next stage of activity.

“You have to be accountable, and all those things you look for in a teammate,” January said.

If that isn’t old-school enough for you, Burke sent several players off to do “gassers” at the end of practice, the football equivalent of the hockey man-maker.

Instead of Booster Juices all around, it was wind sprints, at least for those who’d taken penalties in last week’s loss to B.C.

Club LaPo, if there was such a thing, is officially shut down.

“I haven’t ran gassers in a long time,” receiver Terrence Edwards, among the chosen few after taking an offside penalty against the Lions, said. “Coach Burke is trying to rectify that problem. And I can tell you this... that’ll be the last time I go offside.”

No doubt Bud Grant and Cal Murphy would be smiling.

Actually, they might have gone two hours instead of one. Of course, it was only Day 1.

“He’s the new coach, now, so you gotta roll with it,” Edwards said. “And (Wednesday) is probably going to be even worse, with a longer, regular practice. We’ve just gotta get on board and buy into what he’s trying to do.

“Everything we did before you’ve gotta throw it out the window and listen to the guy in charge.”

But will it work?

Edwards himself said he didn’t go offside because he didn’t have respect for Paul LaPolice.

In the same conversation, he acknowledged Coach LaPo could have, should have, been tougher.

“I definitely think that,” Edwards said. “Coach Burke is trying to bring that whip a little bit.

“Some guys it might affect and they might not like it. But it’s coach Burke’s way now. If you don’t like it, he’s going to have you on the sideline and have you out of here.”

The crackdown comes as the 2-6 Bombers begin preparations for one of the tougher games on the calendar, the Labour Day weekend visit to Saskatchewan.

“I’m just coaching according to my personality,” Burke said. “I’m a driven guy and self-disciplined and I expect them to be that way. If it comes across as being kind of a hard-ass or whatever, that’s the way it is. I’m just being straightforward with them. I don’t beat around the bush.”

No, but will his approach beat the players up after a while?

That’s the danger of the drill sergeant routine.

And what about players who take “good” penalties, to protect their quarterback or prevent a touchdown, for example?

The guy better be flexible.

At least Burke has a sharp sense of humour.

Asked if he had to change at all, going from defensive co-ordinator to head man: “Well, I was planning on getting a crown and sceptre”

For now, the whip will do.


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