Their last game Saturday won’t affect how either team finishes the current CFL season, and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers know they’ll be cleaning out their lockers win or lose.
The Bombers (3-14) will either tie their worst-ever season in the 18-game CFL with a loss or better it by just one game with a win.
The Hamilton Tiger-Cats (9-8), meanwhile, have made the playoffs and have locked up home-field advantage for their semi-final matchup with the Montreal Alouettes.
But both still insist they have good reasons for trying hard Saturday at Investors Group Field.
“Every game means something,” Hamilton head coach Kent Austin said Friday.
“It’s important that we play well going into the playoffs. … We’ve got guys that coming back off the injury [list] that either came back last week or come back this week that really need to be on the field and be ready to play and play at a high level so we can carry that into the playoff game next week.”
One might think he would rest starters such as quarterback Henry Burris, to avoid the possibility of injury and ensure they’re fresh for their first playoff game. How much action Burris will see isn’t something Austin says has yet been determined, but he will play.
“He’s starting the game and we don’t have a definite plan with him,” Austin said. “We want him to feel good about the way he’s playing and have another game under his belt and, like other players, be prepared to play next week. This is another game we want to win and we want Henry to play well.”
The Bombers, meanwhile, are hoping to end a miserable season on a high note.
“Regardless of whether or not we win this game, we’re going to have a bad taste in our mouth,” veteran offensive lineman Glenn January said.
“But at least we can feel a sense of pride as we exit the field for the last time in 2013.”
Some are playing for their jobs and they’ve all been told to enjoy themselves, because this team will change next season.
“This is the last time that all of us in this room will play together,” quarterback Max Hall said they were told this week.
“We don’t know where any of us are going to be next year. We can’t control that but we can control this week and playing the best game we can.”
Their record has already cost general manager Joe Mack and team president Garth Buchko their jobs. The team has an acting president and an acting general manager.
With that as a backdrop, the Bombers are spending much of this week either looking back at their glory days or looking ahead to hosting a Grey Cup in their new $200-million digs.
They’re honouring the 1988 Grey Cup winning team at their final game of the 2013 season.
That wasn’t their last Grey Cup win, but it was close. They won just one more in 1990, and have struck out in five appearances since, their last in 2011.
The Bombers said this week they’re bidding to host either the 2015 or 2016 league final at the CFL’s newest stadium, although it will lose that honour when Ottawa, Hamilton and Regina get new fields in the next few years.
Coach Tim Burke says he hasn’t heard anything about his future yet but he expects the president and general manager positions will get firmed up before that happens.
Until then, Burke says he will carry on wrapping up this season and preparing for the next.
“I’m getting paid, so I’m going to do my job,” he said.