Terrence Edwards hasn’t taken to insulating himself in a kind of protective bubble-wrap. Wasn’t planning on disconnecting basic cable or changing talk-radio channels in his car using a balpean hammer. Not a thought to heading off to the SPCA to adopt a cat just so he has somewhere appropriate to put the unopened paper each morning.
“I don’t run from it,” says the eight-year slotback of the torrent of criticism currently raining down on he and his 2-8 Winnipeg Blue Bomber mates. “We put ourselves in this situation. We play the games. So we’re the ones responsible.
“Criticism’s part of pro sports.
“I know people have a job to do, to write what they see, to give their opinions. That’s their prerogative. I get that. But they also really don’t understand what’s going on inside our locker room.
“They might assume or think they know. But they don’t know. They can’t know. They don’t see the time we put in, or the effort.
“Misconceptions? There’s a lot of them out there.
“That we don’t care.
“That we don’t have the talent.
“Don’t care? Guys here come to work early and leave late. Nobody feels worse when we lose.
“No talent? We have a lot of talent. I wouldn’t trade our roster for any roster in the league. It’s on the players to go out and play your best. Play your best and lose, you can live with that. But when we go out there, kill ourselves and lose, the way we’ve been doing ... can’t happen.”
Down through the years the football-made folk in Winnipeg have endured their fair share of hard times. Think Hipster Jeff Reinebold. Think Mad Mike Kelly. But this is here, this is now, and unless the 2012 Bombers can somehow pry a badly damaged ship off the rocks and slide it back into open water, this season will be lost, too. If it isn’t already.
The backtracking Big Blue arrive to face a cresting Calgary Stampeders’ outfit on the heels of three consecutive losses, one by an obscene 52 points. They’ve already gonged a coach. Haven’t won at McMahon Stadium in nine tries, dating back to 2002. Their meal-ticket quarterback, Buck Pierce, is a week away from return.
So no, the karma is not good.
“A bunker mentality? Well, yes and no,” says offensive tackle Glenn January. “We understand that when you’re struggling the only person you can turn to is the guy sitting next to you in the locker-room or lining up next to you on the field. And Calgary has obviously been a difficult place for us to play as long as I’ve been in Winnipeg, and years before.
“But we can’t afford to get caught up in what’s happened here in the past.”
Pulling out of a funk is invariably a tricky proposition when you’re stuck with an offence unable to punch over touchdowns. And at the moment the Buck-less Big Blue are in the throes of a nine-quarter major-score outage.
“All we’re looking for is to have more points than the other team end at the end of four quarters,” protests Joey Elliott, Winnipeg’s chucker of record Friday. “Doesn’t matter how we get ’em. Doesn’t matter if our defence scores. If we’re kicking field goals. Doesn’t matter. We need a win. That’s at the top of our list of priorities.
“We just need to execute better. You need 12 players when you’re in the red zone to be on the same page. Because if one guy’s not, it makes a big difference. Even just one guy, if he steps with the wrong foot or something like that it throws off the timing of everything. When you’re in the red zone, you’ve got to speed up everything, everything’s a little quicker.
“You can’t take a negative play in the red zone.”
Tonight, battered and belittled, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers go in search of a piece of wreckage to cling to in an icy sea. It doesn’t ensure survival, but it certainly beats the alternative.
To refer to them as “prohibitive underdogs” would be underselling the point.
“Us against The World?” Terrence Edwards gives you the look of a man not about to delve into such weighty concepts. “We’re just trying to win a football game.”
Flowers, he reminds you, have on occasion been known to sprout out of scorched earth.
The Bombers lurched out to an equally rancid start in 2008, the season after reaching a Grey Cup, dropping six of their opening seven that late summer/early fall. And still somehow wound up hosting the East semifinal at Canada Inns Stadium.
“So it’s possible. But (tonight) is a must-win. All our games our must-wins from now on.
“Other people may have given up but we haven’t.
“We understand the hole we’ve dug ourselves. We’ve just got to dig ourselves out of it.”
Well, best of luck, get a good, solid grip on that shovel and put your backs into it, boys. There’s a mountain of earth to be moved.
George Johnson is the Herald’s sportscolumnist. E-mail him firstname.lastname@example.org
Source: Calgary Herald