Bombers' Burke talks turkey

New Winnipeg Blue Bombers head coach Tim Burke speaks to media on Mon., Aug. 27, 2012. (QMI...

New Winnipeg Blue Bombers head coach Tim Burke speaks to media on Mon., Aug. 27, 2012. (QMI Agency/JASON HALSTEAD)

PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:33 PM ET

WINNIPEG - Watching the poor, trampled-upon Blue Bombers shiver their way through a subzero practice, Friday, sparked a question.

With the season basically a lost cause and a north wind chomping its way through the layers, how many of these unfortunates can’t wait to get the hell out of dodge?

Going into a Thanksgiving Day game (what’s there to be thankful about, a Bomber fan can be forgiven for muttering) in Montreal, interim head coach Tim Burke must be worried about the same thing.

Because Burke Friday morning delivered an appeal designed to cut through the layers, too — layers of indifference that might be forming due to the cold, harsh nature of a season winding down the road to nowhere.

In a nutshell, Burke asked his players why they’re here and what they’re playing for.

“What really fuels your fire, inside-out?” is how quarterback Joey Elliott, the starter this weekend, described Burke’s speech. “Why do you go out and play in this type of weather? When you were a kid you probably grew up being the best kid on your block or in the neighbourhood. But what really pushed you to become the type of player you are?

“Basically, a gut-check (on) why you love the game. If you really love it that much, put in that much more effort.”

It’s just the latest motivational tool used by a coach who must be running out of them.

The embarrass-them-using-national-TV-footage ploy worked after the 44-3 caving in Cowtown, as the Bombers rebounded with a rare win over Hamilton, at home. So perhaps they respond best to being embarrassed.

After last week’s clunker to Toronto, Burke isn’t taking any chances.

“He wants to see who really wants to be here and who doesn’t,” Elliott said. “That’s a good job as a coach to motivate his players in a way that you put yourself in check, questioning your heart and ability as a player.”

The quarterback says it’s not always easy to stay fired up when you’re losing.

Throw in the bitter conditions, and it’s doubly difficult.

Even players like running back Chad Simpson acknowledge that.

Asked to name the toughest part about a season like this: “Just keeping yourself into it,” Simpson said.

If you’re having trouble holding Simpson’s attention, you know you’re in deep.

At the other end of the spectrum, newly arrived O-lineman Lee Barbiasz took one look at the situation, one practice, and promptly returned home.

Yet another reminder for GM Joe Mack that you can’t see character on a game film.

Most of the Bombers fall somewhere in between Simpson and Barbiasz.

Burke needs to find out exactly where.

“Try to think back on the time that you fell in love with the game,” the coach said, repeating his message. “And try to recapture that feeling. Guys are pressing too much. They’re putting too much pressure on themselves. I want them to just go out there and play this game for the pure joy of being a great athlete, of being a professional and for the love of the game.”

Never mind the minus-3 wind chill or the minus-7 won-loss record.

“Forget about all that,” Burke said. “If you just cut loose and have fun, let’s see what happens.”

But aren’t pros supposed to thrive under pressure?

“Obviously when you’re 3-10 there’s tremendous pressure on you to win,” Burke said. “And sometimes it can be negative pressure. We’re all human. We put so much pressure on ourselves. I’m just trying to take that off of them.”

Sounds like another version of the let-the-negativity-go speech Burke gave soon after taking over.

By all means, go out and have fun, fellas. Rediscover your love for the game.

But there’s really no better way to do that than by winning.

I don’t like their chances in Montreal this weekend.

Burke wants to see character?

He may have to sit through another turkey, first.


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