The patience has now officially run out in Winnipeg and changes, perhaps dramatic changes, are on their way.
Blue Bombers head coach Tim Burke told his weekly radio show on 680 CJOB that Saturday’s 37-14 loss to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in Guelph was the final straw in terms of him waiting for the current players to convince him they deserve to keep wearing Blue and Gold jerseys.
It prompted Burke to issue the following warning to his players
“I thought our defensive effort in the first quarter was atrocious. It’s not going to be tolerated. If we do that again, we’re just going to run all practice long. We’ll play track instead of football. You are asking the good citizens of Winnipeg to pay a lot of money to watch you go out there and play. If they don’t think you are playing hard or playing with any passion, you are letting those people down. Those fans deserve better and we intend to give them better, whatever it takes.”
Those comments were made by Burke on Monday. On Tuesday, the Bombers cut place-kicker Justin Palardy and receiver Isaac Anderson, and brought in four new players. Two of the newcomers were receivers.
Mike Sims-Walker, a veteran of 5 NFL seasons who caught 122 passes over three seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars before injuries derailed his career. Aaron Kelly was the other -- a Clemson grad who spent two years with the Hamilton Tiger cats before being released this spring.
Both Sims-Walker and Kelly are big, Sims-Walker 6-2, 215 and Kelly 6-4, 195. Also arriving was quarterback Jason Boltus, a 6-4, 225-pound product of Hartwick College who spent 3 seasons as the number-three quarterback in Hamilton when Marcel Bellefeuille was Ticats head coach. And the Bombers are the latest team in the CFL to decide they want a closer look at kicker Brody McKnight.
McKnight is an intriguing prospect, a first round draft pick of the Montreal Alouettes in 2011, who has now been let go by 4 CFL clubs, Montreal, Edmonton, Saskatchewan and Hamilton. Burke says they simply feel McKnight is worth a look, and the fact he can place-kick and punt has appeal.
Burke said acting general manager Kyle Walters and the Bombers U.S. Scouts are burning the midnight oil, looking for players, both Canadian and import, who can upgrade their talent level.
“This isn’t the end of the changes. We are going to bring more guys in. They may not be able to beat some of our guys out, but they are certainly going to push them” said Burke.
Still, Burke insists the Bombers haven’t given up on this season. “We want to do both, we want to upgrade, but we also want to compete. We are only four points out of a playoff spot, as crazy as that sounds at 1-7, so we’re not out of it by any stretch of the imagination,” said Burke.
Burke’s biggest issue as he prepares his team for the daunting task of visiting the Saskatchewan Roughriders Sunday in their annual Labor Day Weekend matchup is the never-ending uncertainty at the quarterback position.
This week it is entirely injury related.
Max Hall, who started last week’s game against Hamilton but had to leave after just the second offensive play, is listed as day-to-day with an injury to his passing hand. Buck Pierce is also considered day-to-day with an undetermined injury.
That leaves Justin Goltz and newly acquired Boltus as the only completely healthy quarterbacks available, with Goltz likely to get the starting nod when the Bombers tangle with the Riders as Mosaic stadium.
Bob Irving has covered the Winnipeg Blue Bombers for CJOB Radio in Winnipeg since 1973. Bob is the Sports Director at CJOB and is in the Canadian Football Hall of Fame, reporters division. Follow Bob on Twitter @BobIrvingCJOB