The Winnipeg Blue Bombers returned to the practice field Saturday, presumably relaxed, refreshed, rejuvenated, and most importantly, refocused as they prepare to embark on the long, hard journey following their bye week.
After a 75-minute workout at Canad Inns stadium, Head Coach Paul LaPolice revealed that he was changing quarterbacks, with Joey Elliott getting the start in place of Alex Brink when the Bombers return to action against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Thursday.
Elliott has only started two games in his career, both at the end of the 2010 season. He missed most of 2011 with a knee injury, and was narrowly beaten out by Brink at this year’s training camp for the #2 job behind Buck Pierce.
Elliott was thrilled to get a shot at leading the Winnipeg offence, saying: "It's nice to hear my name being called".
Brink, meanwhile, was visibly upset, telling reporters "Blind-sided is a good word to describe my reaction. You dream of being a starting quarterback in professional football and it's disappointing when it's taken away from you."
Emphasis on ‘taken away’ Brink doesn't feel he played poorly enough in his three starts to lose the job.
LaPolice said simply "Alex played okay, but we are 1-5 and we want to see what Joey can do."
The change at the pivot position comes after the Bombers took a major step backward in their last outing, losing 36-26 to Montreal. That score flattered the Bombers, who got most of their points when the game was out of hand. When it was over, head coach LaPolice called it a "very disappointing" performance.
The good news for the Bombers is despite their play to date, nobody is running away with the East. The other three teams in the Division are all still within hailing distance with Toronto, Montreal and Hamilton all with identical records (3-3).
Part of LaPolice's message to his players was that they can still control where they finish with 12 games remaining to be played. The other part of his message wasn't quite so upbeat. LaPolice isn't the type to rant and rave and threaten. But he has made it clear to his players that his patience has run out and those that aren't performing up to expectations will need to pick it up, or move on.
The Bombers' sideline boss is particularly concerned with two things.
One of them is the continual breakdowns in the secondary that have resulted in repeated big plays at crucial times.
The hoped for return of all-star safety Ian Logan and defensive halfback Alex Suber from injury would help alleviate that issue. The other is the way the Bombers’ offence is starting football games. As if injury woes were not challenging enough, constantly playing from behind doesn't aid an offence that is still trying to gel with so many personnel changes as of late.
LaPolice said that he and offensive co-ordinator Gary Crowton placed a strong emphasis during the bye week on finding a solution to this problem. And LaPolice also stated that the blame for the lack of production falls at his feet with the onus on him and Crowton to come up with a solution.
General Manager of and Vice-President of Football Operations Joe Mack says LaPolice's job is not in jeopardy and he remains convinced that his club has the talent to turn their season around.
If there is one thing we have learned about the long 18-game CFL season, it's that there are ebbs and flows, teams have good streaks and bad streaks. The Bombers are hoping their good streak is right around the corner.