The most surprising cut of Calgary Stampeders’ training camp might’ve been the one linebacker Malik Jackson showed up with.
Don’t panic, Jackson is still on team. He just isn’t sporting the familiar dreadlocks he’s had ever since first arriving at McMahon Stadium.
“Off the field, I’m used to it. On the field, it’s a little bit different, especially watching film,” Jackson said.
“A couple times watching film, I was thinking, ‘Where the hell am I?’ And then
I remember, oh yeah, I don’t have long hair no more. Everybody else is getting used to it, but I’ve had my hair cut for probably four or five months. Everybody is kind of reintroducing to me, like, ‘Oh, you cut your hair?’ So it’s old to me, but it’s still new to everybody up here.
“It’s just something new.
I wasn’t going to have (dreadlocks) forever. Plus, my helmet fits better now.”
Although Stamps fans might not recognize him, that’s the same old No. 11 who will be patrolling the wide-side linebacker spot in Friday’s regular-season opener against the Toronto Argonauts at McMahon Stadium.
“During the off-season, (Jackson) sent me a message and he let me know he cut his hair,” said Stamps middle linebacker Juwan Simpson.
“He looks totally different, but I’m getting used to it now.
I still tell him, on film, I’m looking for the dreads swinging, but I’m definitely getting used to it.”
Jackson and Simpson are no longer worried about getting used to their duties in the Stamps’ scheme after both being miscast as defensive linemen at the start of their CFL careers.
Jackson, 26, found a home at linebacker early in the 2009 campaign and built on his success last summer, registering 61 tackles, six sacks, four knockdowns, three fumble recoveries, two forced fumbles and one interception in his sophomore season.
Simpson, 26, was installed at middle linebacker during last year’s training camp and proved it was a wise move, leading the Stamps with 71 tackles and tying for tops on the team with seven sacks.
His stats sheet also showed four knockdowns, three fumble recoveries, one forced fumble and a pick.
“Linebacker here is not the old-school linebacker,” Simpson said.
“You do a lot more dynamic things. You do a lot of dropping, a lot more coverage. That’s what makes me and Malik valuable in this league, that it’s not the old-school run and run and run and pound linebacker. We’re able to be a little bit lighter and still be able to do our jobs.”
This season, they’re even sporting similar hair-dos, although Jackson has a bit more fuzz than his bald buddy.
They’ll be joined in the Stamps’ three-man linebacking corps by Brandon Isaac.