Prayers are answered

Linebacker Barrin Simpson is the key to a credible new Winnipeg Blue Bomber defence. (Winnipeg...

Linebacker Barrin Simpson is the key to a credible new Winnipeg Blue Bomber defence. (Winnipeg Sun/Jon Schledewitz)

JIM BENDER -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 1:28 PM ET

The CFL's version of the Minister of Defence hopes to lead his new followers out of the wilderness.

The Blue Bombers dipped into free agency to sign ex-B.C. Lions linebacker Barrin Simpson to a multi-year pact, believed to be worth about $170,000 per annum (plus incentives). And the Bombers are hoping that the four-time all-star will be the key cog in turning the sorriest defence in CFL history into a winner -- this season.

"Defensively, obviously it was no secret to anybody that that's where we needed an upgrade," Bombers GM Brendan Taman said yesterday. "If this doesn't upgrade us, I don't know what will.

"Barrin, to me, is like the Milt (Stegall) of our offence. He's going to be our leader."

Simpson, an ordained minister, agreed to the pact within hours of officially becoming a free agent late Wednesday. In fact, he had flown to Winnipeg before that deadline even hit and his signed contract was sent to CFL HQ around 2 a.m. yesterday, Taman said.

Impressed

"Barrin must have been pretty impressed because minus-30 weather up there didn't scare him away," Bombers head coach Doug Berry said from Amherst, Mass. "He fits a role we were looking to fit. I've always felt that the defence is led by the middle linebacker because he's the one who knows what's going on. He's proven his playing ability the last couple of years and he's coming to a defence that thoroughly needs some help."

Simpson, 28, had been the rock of the B.C. defence since 2001 when he was named the CFL Rookie of the Year, as well as the top defensive player in the West.

But one wonders why he would risk becoming part of such a pathetic defence when five other teams were bidding for his services.

"That doesn't scare me at all," said Simpson, who is impressed with the defensive line. "I don't think we're that far off. We just need the right pieces in the right places."

Comfort level

The affable 5-foot-11, 228-pound import has a certain comfort level in Winnipeg where he will re-join former B.C. assistant coach Richard Harris, former Lions teammate Chris Brazzell and Stegall, a close friend. Both Brazzell and Stegall had been wooing Simpson. He was also encouraged by Berry's winning background in Montreal, plus the fact that this is a football city while the Leos played second fiddle to the NHL Canucks in Vancouver.

"My concern was being happy and that was the difference between going to Hamilton or Toronto and coming here," Simpson said. "I was most comfortable with this situation and having fun here. The fan atmosphere and the city, I knew I would be in love with this situation.

"It's all about winning and I want to be a part of that, be part of that turnaround on the road to getting a Grey Cup. I expect to win. As an organization, we expect to win this year. I'm looking forward to it, I'm excited. I'm definitely looking forward to being a Blue Bomber."

Simpson had grown frustrated with his new role with the Lions.

"I don't really have any animosity but it was more of a business move I felt I had to make in order to move further along my career and to be happy," he said. "It was time to move on and find a home somewhere else.

"I'm all about winning and I don't have a Grey Cup. I'm excited about the opportunity to fight for a Grey Cup and hopefully, get Stegall one and help Milt go out on a good note -- with a Grey Cup ring."


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