Stamps 'back in business

IAN BUSBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:34 AM ET

CALGARY - Naturally, the numbers 11 and 12 should line up next to each other.

The Calgary Stampeders couldn’t get those digits to stick together last CFL season.

Heading into last year, the Stamps thought they were solid when it came to two of their three linebackers.

To start 2011, Juwan Simpson (12) was coming off a season where the middle man was nominated for the league’s defensive player award.

Malik Jackson (11) was entering his third CFL season after becoming a tackling force at the wide-side spot.

In the season-opener, things started to unravel.

Jackson suffered a concussion against the Toronto Argonauts, and he battled through the injury the rest of the season.

A few weeks later, Simpson suffered a knee sprain that kept him from performing for several weeks and still hampered him when he came back.

Even when Jackson was back in action, he wasn’t the same. Eventually, he needed to take a few more weeks off later in the year when symptoms were lingering.

Jackson was also a bit more tentative in his play.

“You could say I was iffy,” the 27-year-old said. “It’s a hurdle you have to get past. It was my first one. It’s not something you are used to or want to get used to. It was different.

“We are banging our heads, so you are a bit more cognizant of the injury in that regard.”

Short-side linebacker Brandon Isaac suffered a groin injury and was sidelined late in the season, and with the shuffling back and forth between players, the top group of starters never got on track last year.

Even the backups had trouble with injuries.

Wide-side ’backer Karl McCartney fought through a hamstring problem all season and didn’t find his game during what was expected to be a breakout second year.

Versatile linebacker Robert McCune also had a knee problem after being pressed into action as the middle linebacker.

“It was a bad year,” Simpson said. “Whether it was injuries or whatever, we never got going.

“We talked about it towards the end of last season and a few times this season. We have a different mindset now. Once we get on the field, we stay on the field.”

Due to the injury bug that plagued the position group, the Stamps went out and brought in veterans Joe Lobendahn (Winnipeg Blue Bombers) and Joe Henderson (B.C. Lions) to provide some depth.

So far in camp, when the first-team defence hits the field, it’s Jackson and Simpson standing next to one another, just like old times.

“Things have gone well,” Simpson said. “It’s good to have somebody out there with you who knows how you play.

“Unfortunately, it doesn’t always happen that you stay out there together. As long as he’s out there, I know I’m good. We’re having fun.”

Jackson, who feels free and clear of concussion symptoms, couldn’t be happier that they are full speed again.

“It’s a good vibe out there,” Jackson said. “There are a lot of new things going on, with new coaches and players.

“We’re trying to get everybody on the same page. It’s good to be out there flying around. Last year was one of those down years. It happens in football. You need to bounce back. It’s a brand new season. I’m ready to go.”

ian.busby@sunmedia.ca

On Twitter: @SUNIanBusby


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