He actually crawled out of Dave Ritchie's doghouse long before the Winnipeg Blue Bombers fired the head coach. But it has been just lately that Lamar McGriggs has really rounded into the menacing force he is expected to be on the defensive side of the football.
"I think Lamar got off to a bit of a slow start but was nowhere near the disappointment that maybe was perceived out there," current Bomber mentor Jim Daley said yesterday. "He had a bad game and got into the doghouse a little bit but worked his way out of it. Instead of folding the tent, he responded with real mental toughness.
"He regained his position very early in the season and now, clearly, he has regained his form in the last three or four weeks. He's become the linebacker of old."
That's linebacker of old, not old linebacker. And he is returning to form at a time of year when some veterans might be feeling their age.
"They're supposed to but not this one, man," McGriggs responded with a laugh. "Not this one."
McGriggs, 36, just had his best game, recording eight tackles and adding one special teams tackle during the Bombers 27-24 victory over Saskatchewan, and was a runner-up to Edmonton's A.J. Gass for CFL defensive player of the week.
"He has worked his way up from a slow start to being one of the best linebackers in the CFL again," Daley said. "That's big news for us and a big advantage for us."
It's just that time of the year, suggested the ex-NFLer.
"I feel I'm getting there," said the hard-hitting 6-foot-3, 215-pounder. "It's close to the fall when the real football is being played and I just want to get better and get us a playoff spot. This is when I feel all the juices flow."
McGriggs added that he picked up the pace with linebacker Ryland Wickman out with a separated shoulder.
Daley said, in fact, that both McGriggs and linebacker Maurice Kelly have "raised the bar" in recent outings and he will need both to be on top of their games when Winnipeg plays host to Toronto on Saturday. They will have to keep their eyes on quarterback Michael Bishop, who skedaddled for 96 yards on 10 carries and completed 16 of 27 passes for 300 yards as the Argos edged Winnipeg 14-6 in Toronto on Aug. 17.
"We're just looking forward to a better matchup than we had the last time we played them," McGriggs said. "Defensively, we want to contain Bishop, keep him in the pocket and make him be a true quarterback instead of a dual threat -- running and throwing. That's what we're really concentrating on -- make him pass and make decisions, and just try to make it as hard as we can on him."
The Bombers, 5-7, will ride a two-game winning streak into the contest.
"This is huge, especially for our opposition in the West," said McGriggs. "We're just trying to catch up to everybody and it would be a shame for us to lose this game after the two great games that we had. We're just really trying to keep our roll going."