Immediately following their Week 4 loss at home to the Toronto Argonauts that dropped the team to 1-3 on the season, veteran Winnipeg Blue Bombers defender Jovon Johnson told reporters that the team was going to have a players-only meeting on Day 1 of practice that coming week.
Johnson, far and away the most veteran among an extremely inexperienced Bombers defence, said post-game that night, "Of course it's not usual, but different situations call for different things and guys want to get some things off their chest."
Head coach Tim Burke, clearly not enthused, had this to offer the next day in response.
"I'm going to have a players meeting with the head coach first before they have their meeting."
And sure enough, on Day 1 the following week, practice began nearly an hour late as the bench boss met with his team before the players held their own summit.
"Each group leader just voiced their opinion," said nine-year CFL vet Terrence Edwards. "We just went out and said what we need to do better to get wins and what we need to do to play better. Period. And I think the leaders of each group are going to make sure that their players are doing the little things to be a better player. And I think that's one of the things that are hampering us right now, the smaller details in our offence."
Burke was more specific to exactly what he is displeased with. His club, the most inexperienced in the entire CFL by a definitive margin, is struggling with maturity.
"I was talking about adversity, because it seemed like we were going into the tank whenever adversity hits. CFL games are like this; up and down, and the lead changes all the time. The league is set up to score points… And that's the thing they have to understand — OK, we gave up a touchdown. It's not the end of the world. We threw an interception. It's not the end of the world. We kicked the ball out of bounds. It's not then end of the world… If you're not feeling that way, if you're mature you can handle the adversity, then you don't yourself fall into the trap. So I was just trying to point out a few areas where we could be more mature."
"The other thing is, you have to believe you can win. You have to know you can win. If you make yourself believe you're going to win all the time, then you're going to be shocked when you lose rather than expecting to lose."
Seven-year pro Glenn January, the leader of a developing offensive line, feels the need for team and individual maturity goes beyond in-game situations.
"In game. Out of game. The whole week, in and of itself, is difficult. And as the season progresses it begins to be more of a drag, and just how you handle yourself and how you prepare yourself week in and week out — that's the sign of being a true professional. And I think that's on us to make sure everybody understands what's expected of everyone else in the locker room."
January defines the maturity needed.
"The maturity to go out and block out some of the voices that creep up in the back of your mind whenever you might be getting tired or maybe something is not going your way. And that is something that you learn with some ups and downs that you play through. I think that we've got a lot of young players that are not experienced enough to handle tough times."
Things don't get any easier for the Blue Bombers in Week 5 against the 3-1 Calgary Stampeders, as some of their more inexperienced players continue to work to fill in at some key positions where the injury bug has bit hard.
Notes: To start 2013, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers' roster accounted for the least amount of total games played among CFL teams (1,665). Winnipeg has a league-low 10 players with four or more seasons of CFL experience, compared to the next least in Hamilton (13) and Edmonton (15). Interestingly, Winnipeg is tied with B.C. for the least amount of first-year players (4)… The Bombers defence, cited by some as the bright spot for Tim Burke's team, has allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete 87-per-cent of their passes over the last two games for 648 yards, four touchdowns, and no interceptions… Quarterback Justin Goltz will make his first career professional start this week while Buck Pierce will dress as the No. 3 pivot behind Max Hall. Following walkthrough on Thursday, Pierce (abdomen) said he is healthy enough to play but his trainers apparently disagree. Tim Burke urges that it is the trainer's call…
Receiver Chris Matthews will miss a consecutive game after re-aggravating his lower-back injury in practice this week… Slot back Terrence Edwards returns from a shoulder ailment that has kept him out of the lineup since Week 2… Slot back Cory Watson remains out with a hamstring injury sustained late in practice last week. His return is expected in three weeks… Nickelback Johnny Sears, who made his season debut in Week 4 following offseason knee surgery, will be out six weeks with a foot injury suffered against the Argonauts. Boundary halfback Demond Washington will move to Nickelback, while backup boundary corner Marty Markett moves into Washington's spot... Defensive tackle Bryant Turner, Winnipeg's lone 2012 CFL All-Star, returns this week after suffering a chest ligament injury while taking down Anthony Calvillo late in Week 2 at Montreal…