Who should stay, and who should go? That is the question facing the Winnipeg Blue Bombers as they work to rebuild a roster and a winning culture in the same way the football club built the country's first new CFL stadium in over three decades. They can only hope the process will see less construction delays and bumps along the way, but result in a similar jewel of a finished product that is Investors Group Field.
Despite his own fate remaining an unknown at this juncture, it is clear head coach Tim Burke is heavily involved in analyzing and evaluating Winnipeg's current roster as they look toward an offseason that may be their busiest in franchise history.
"There will be changes of some kind, whether it's one person or half the team and all the coaching staff. Who knows what it'll be," said Burke as he prepares his 3-14 team for their season finalé at home against Hamilton. "We meet as a staff, and then (acting general manager Kyle Walters) and I meet together."
Burke and Walters have noticed a trend in some of their players.
"(The conversations) have been going on and they continue to go on because some guys surprise you, more that they don't have the heart, don't have the competitive spirit that they need to have. So you don't want to go forward with those guys in the future."
Those who see playing time on Saturday and those who do not may indicate who will be around next season, or elsewhere.
"Some of them have showed their true colours this week," added Burke. "And so they won't play (against Hamilton)."
One of the players who is working to leave a noticeable mark is Johnny Sears, who, since returning from a long-term foot injury in Week 15, has been an injection of energy and tenacity into a team in desperate need of it. Sears is a player who clearly understands the audition process so many Blue Bombers are currently being subjected to by Burke and Walters, as well as others around the CFL.
"Someone has to remember me, if not my team, before I leave (for the season)," said the versatile fourth-year pro who has lined up at corner, halfback, and nickelback this month. "You've got to make a demanding impact, and that's what I try to bring."
"With trades, to get released, or new coaching staff, you don't know who's watching," added Sears, who understands the current situation in the CFL with an expansion team joining this winter and his club in a rebuilding phase. "Everybody is watching, but you don't know who's taking notes on you. So whatever you put on film on the field, somebody might like it and somebody may not. The person who may like it might be your next boss, so it's all in the resumé... I think that's in the back of every player's mind."
"Who knows what's going to happen. An example, for our season, we're all playing for our next job. Who knows what it may be? I may be here. I may be gone. I don't know... If I am gone, I'm playing hard enough for somebody else to want me or play good enough for them to keep me here."
Sears, 26, remains under contract with the Bombers through the 2014 season.
The 3-14 Blue Bombers are working to avoid tying their lowest season win total since a 2-14 finish back in 1970.
"Right now we just want a victory," said the head coach. "This is going to be our last week together, last game together as a team. And this is what I told them... Somebody in that room is going to be playing for Ottawa next year. Maybe two or three. Who knows? Some guys, this will be their last game they ever play in their life. This is a chance for us to go out together as a team and play as a team and play our hearts out."
Notes: Some players who may miss action this week due to injury include defensive ends Kenny Mainor (shoulder) and Greg Peach (groin), offensive linemen Glenn January (undisclosed) and Patrick Neufeld (lower-body), receiver Terrence Edwards (undisclosed), and nickelback Desia Dunn (undisclosed)... Defensive tackle Zach Anderson returns to the lineup this week after missing the last two games... Running back Mario Fannin, who was signed to the practice roster on October 1, is expected to get a solid look in game action this week.