WINNIPEG -- Winnipeg Blue Bombers coach Tim Burke has told his players to forget about the pressure to win and simply enjoy playing their next game Monday in Montreal.
"Obviously, when you're 3-10, there's tremendous pressure on you to win and I think sometimes it can be negative pressure," he said.
"I want them to just go out there an play this game just for the pure joy of being a great athlete, of being a professional, and for the love of the game."
It resonates with backup quarterback Joey Elliott, who will start Monday against the Alouettes instead of Buck Pierce, who remains out with a mild concussion.
But Elliott also says he takes it to mean that Burke wants to see who really wants to be on the team.
"End of the season, he wants guys to put in extra effort, and it's not easy whenever wins aren't coming our way," said Elliott.
"He wants to see who really wants to be here and who doesn't. That's a good job as a coach to motivate his players in a way that you put yourself in check and question your heart and ability as a player."
With five games left it's not quite the end of the season, although everyone who isn't actually wearing the blue and gold seems to have written off the Bombers already.
But the players, such as defensive back Jovon Johnson, say they can't.
The best defensive player in the CFL last season says he has to approach Monday's game as one more chance to win and make the playoffs.
"Of course I do, I'm a competitor and I'm one of the team leaders," he said after practice in temperatures just barely above freezing.
"Making the playoffs is something that we always try to achieve . . . It's doable, we've lost some close games to teams that are one and two in the league."
The Bombers will play Monday without Clarence Denmark, who has been given time to deal with the death of his father. Isaac Anderson will come off the practice roster to take his place.