Stamps linebackers don new digits

IAN BUSBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:53 PM ET

They made a switch early in training camp, and then switched it up again once it was over.

This is truly a new beginning for Malik Jackson and Juwan Simpson.

After the Calgary Stampeders broke training camp, the two starting linebackers donned new numbers, and the digits they chose make it odd to watch them running around in practice.

Jackson took Brett Ralph’s No. 11, while Simpson grabbed Sandro DeAngelis’ old No. 12.

They couldn’t be any more opposite than the players who wore those numbers for the past five years.

“I catch myself on film looking different,” said Simpson, who will start the season at middle linebacker.

“I strive for that aspect. I don’t look at the number as any sort of importance. The player always makes the number.

“I’m not a quarter of the old 48 (his former number for two seasons).

“I would like to think I’m better than that.”

When camp opened, the Stamps worked with Jackson lined up as the middle linebacker and Simpson as a wide-side ’backer.

After a couple of days, they swapped places.

Jackson was never going to lose a starting position. The 2009 team nominee for the CFL’s rookie of the year award started the final

10 games and the playoffs as the wide-side linebacker.

The 25-year-old tied for the team lead with 65 tackles despite being miscast the first half of the season as a defensive end.

“It feels good just looking ahead,” Jackson said. “I hope to do things this year that

I wasn’t able to do last year.

“I was just trying to get adjusted last year. I’m looking forward to this season and having a great year.

“I want to make more plays. From Day 1 this year, I’m a linebacker.

“All through camp, I was feeling more comfortable at the position, so I’m raising the bar a little bit.”

Simpson has had his share of positional moves too.

Since coming to the Stamps in 2008, he has played either defensive end spot and two linebacker positions, but he always saw most of his action on special teams.

Until this season, the soon-to-be-26-year-old hadn’t locked down a starting job.

With Simpson going to middle and Keon Raymond the starter at strong-side linebacker, Jackson is the longest-tenured player at his spot in the crew.

So far, the mixture has worked well.

“Communication is key,” Simpson said. “When you have communication, things flow a lot smoother. Malik is a veteran at that will (weak-side) spot, and he has it down.

“Keon played some sam (strong-side) last year, and he has it down. For me, it’s going really well. We’re learning the system. We’re doing what coach (Chris) Jones wants.”

By getting No. 11, Jackson is back in his old college number.

“I’m happier with it, but I’m not going to make a big deal out of it,” Jackson said. “I’m just happy to go out and play football.”

Coincidentally, Jackson wore 49 last season, while Simpson was 48 in his rookie campaign.

Now, Simpson is one higher.

“It’s a new season, and I feel like I’m a different player all-around,” Simpson said.

“I want to approach the season with that mindset.”

ian.busby@sunmedia.ca


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