Blue Bombers coach: 'We're not dead yet'

PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 5:39 AM ET

WINNIPEG - He hadn't pulled out his hair, wasn't drooling all over his hoodie and didn't mutter incoherently when he spoke.

And if he had a touch of that deer-in-the-headlights look, Winnipeg Blue Bombers interim head coach Tim Burke managed it well as he emerged from his bunker for the first time since the Slaughter in Saskatchewan.

"It was an inauspicious start," Burke deadpanned Tuesday about his head coaching debut. "Certainly not the way I wanted it to go."

No, and Custer's little clash near the Little Bighorn River in 1876 didn't the go the way he'd planned, either.

Believe it or not, Burke actually found a silver lining in the dark, saying his players -- "pretty much everybody" -- didn't quit, even though the 52-0 count suggested otherwise.

"I didn't think the effort was bad," Burke said. "Guys were really playing their butts off, even when we were way behind. It's more assignment mistakes than anything else. We had guys on offence and defence and on special teams -- some guys were doing their own thing."

Their own thing?

"Either trying to do too much, or changing, thinking they knew more about what they should be doing than what the coaches knew."

Burke says he'll address that in meetings this week.

But don't expect day after day of punishment practices from the man who ran his team through "gassers" in his first week at the helm.

"The penalties will be held accountable for, just like last week," Burke said. "But we're not going to punish guys for playing bad. I mean, they didn't want to play bad. We've just got to make sure they play well this week."

At 2-7, the Bombers are fast falling out of playoff contention, and it's only the midpoint of the season.

Another loss in the rematch against the Riders this Sunday would mark the fourth time in five years Saskatchewan has won both ends of the back-to-back set.

It's a far cry from expectations after a 10-8 mark and trip to the Grey Cup just over 10 months ago.

"We're not dead, yet," Burke said.

At the same time he acknowledged the players were down.

"On the bus coming back, there was very little talk," he said. "Guys were not only dejected, but shocked that things occurred the way they occurred."

As for turning the leaking ship around, Burke says it'll have to happen largely with the players already here, and the schemes already in place.

"We are who we are in some respects," he said. "We're still going to have our base offence, defence and special teams.

"You can't change at this time of the year. If you bring guys in they have to learn the CFL game, they have to learn how to play in the system, and by the time you do that it's three or four weeks down the line. We're going to win with the guys we have."

Without the fear of losing their jobs, Burke says players will have to turn it around the old-fashioned way.

"I'm hoping pride drives them," he said. "Pride as a group, pride as a team, pride as an individual. I hope that drives them more than anything else."

paul.friesen@sunmedia.ca

Twitter: @friesensunmedia


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