Wickman gets hook

KIRK PENTON -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 12:00 PM ET

Ryland Wickman saw it coming.

He just didn't think it would arrive as quickly as it did.

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers veteran middle linebacker knew there was a chance he would sit after the team signed former NFLer Joe Tuipala last week.

It didn't look like it would happen this week, however.

Moved to practice roster

"Yesterday was normal and all the ones before were normal. I pretty much took all the first-team reps," Wickman said yesterday. "Today, before practice, coach came up to me and told me they were thinking about playing Joe to see what he could do."

The coaching staff will do just that tomorrow afternoon at 3 o'clock when the Bombers (5-10) host the Toronto Argonauts (8-6) at Canad Inns Stadium.

Tuipala is in, while Wickman is moving to the practice roster as a healthy scratch for the first time in his career.

"I've never been in this situation," Wickman said. "But hey, I've seen it happen to many other people and some of my buddies. That's part of football. I'm not too worried about it.

"The good thing is I've been playing here six years, so my money's guaranteed, my contract's guaranteed, so I don't have to worry about money or trying to find a new job or something right away."

The Bomber defence has been dismal this season. It is dead last in total yards allowed (448), rushing yards allowed (130) and passing yards allowed (340).

In other words, something has to change.

Wickman, 29, has fought off many challengers for his job before, but this could signal the beginning of the end for him in Blue and Gold.

"We have wanted to have a bigger, or a big, middle linebacker," head coach Jim Daley said. "But to find one that came in and outshone Ryland, we haven't been able to do -- ever."

Tuipala could be the one who finally does it. At 6-foot-2 and 250 pounds, he is two inches taller and 25 pounds heavier than Wickman. He was a special teams demon with the NFL's Jacksonvile Jaguars in 2001 and 2002, and he was also an all-star linebacker with the XFL's Las Vegas Outlaws in early 2001.

"He brings a reputation from the NFL as being a very physical run stopper, and he appears to have that skill set here," Daley said.

"... We expect him to be an instant veteran-type player once he learns our game. There should not be a long learning curve for him."

Tuipala, 29, will at least see a familiar foe when he lines up tomorrow; he played against Argos running back John Avery in the XFL.

"John Avery's always been a scatback guy that can just move, and he's a real quick, shifty-type back, so I'm definitely familiar with him," Tuipala said. "Hopefully I'll be able to get him down."

Wickman, meanwhile, will watch from the sideline, wishing he could be on the field inspiring his teammates with his fiery play.

"I love to play football and hit people, and of course it's a little bit of a bummer, especially when I've been playing with these guys for six years and starting for six years and I consider myself a leader out there on the defence," he said.

"That part I feel maybe they're underestimating a little bit -- my leadership skills -- but hey, that's all their decision."


Photos