WINNIPEG - It felt more like a Sunday morning church service than a midweek football practice at the Ruins at Polo Park, Wednesday.
Which is fitting, when you think about how much confession should have been going on.
“A little bit subdued,” is how interim head coach Tim Burke described it.
You could hear a mouth guard drop during much of the Blue Bombers’ first practice of the week, night and day from the first raucous session under Burke last week.
Clearly the man has some work to do in repairing psyches after that 52-0 crash in combine country. I’m thinking it’d be easier rebuilding a Kawasaki Ninja after a TransCanada run-in with a John Deere.
But Burke is rolling up his sleeves and diving in, in his own no-nonsense way.
This week the defensive co-ordinator/head man is adding a third title to his job description: team psychologist.
It seems his players need to get a few things out of their systems, and if they don’t he’ll do it for them.
“I talked to the team about (how) we’ve got to get rid of the negative atmosphere here,” Burke said. “Whether there’s some carryover about Paul (LaPolice) being dismissed, or whether it’s the four road games in a row or the stadium — whatever the negativity is, we’ve got to get over that and move onto the positives. Feel good about ourselves and go out there and feed on each other’s energy.”
That’s the first time anyone has suggested the stadium delay affected the team’s performance. Until now it’s been the “we’ll play anywhere” mantra adopted by the fired LaPolice.
Then again, after losing by 52 points and falling to 2-7, you’ll grab at the thinnest straw, I suppose.
We actually shouldn’t be surprised there might be people in that locker-room who’ve been grousing about the stadium or the four road games or the firing of Coach LaPo.
Some of them groused about the off-season moves of the front office, after all.
Those are all ready-made excuses to lose. And this team is learning to perfect the art of the loss.
“I just told them that’s gotta stop,” Burke said. “And it’s up to your teammates to hold you to that standard, that we’re not going to do that kind of stuff. So I challenged the leadership to take charge of that and nip it in the bud. If there ever is anymore, let’s get it out — and then I’m going to handle it if it gets to me.”
“I have my ways.”
Burke does bring up an interesting point about the stadium fiasco, which sent 2012 off on a downward spiral that has yet to subside.
“What would it have been like if after four games we came home to this brand new stadium?” Burke wondered aloud. “Maybe there would have been some energy from that — who knows? It’s hard to tell.”
Instead, the stadium debacle led to the 0-4 start which was followed by the security backlash and the firing of the head coach.
They say momentum is everything, and nobody has been able to stop this train from wrecking.
They also say you sometimes have to reach rock-bottom before you can get help.
Did the Bombers hit rock-bottom last Sunday?
You’d think so.
But all the positive reinforcement in the world won’t mean a lick if the losing continues.
“We’ve been through a lot together as a team, too,” receiver Kito Poblah said. “There’s a lot of things that are fighting against us. And within us.”
“Just a lot of things,” is all Poblah would say.
Get out your couch, coach.