Bombers gamble on Ike

Winnipeg Blue Bombers head coach Doug Berry is moving defensive back Ike Charlton to a linebacker...

Winnipeg Blue Bombers head coach Doug Berry is moving defensive back Ike Charlton to a linebacker to open the season. (Winnipeg Sun/Jason Halstead)

JIM BENDER -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 7:41 AM ET

They all like Ike.

The Blue Bombers, in fact, like Ike Charlton so much that they are willing to gamble on the converted defensive back starting at strong-side linebacker this season. This is basically a redefined position to address the five- and six-receiver sets now employed by most CFL squads.

"You want a guy who can still be physical but who can run," Winnipeg's rookie head coach Doug Berry explained yesterday. "So, when you're evaluating talent, you say, 'Who are our physical guys? Who wants to be part of the action? Who's going to jam receivers and keep them from getting deep to the outside right now and funnel him back towards the free safety, and things like that?' And we felt like Ike could do that very effectively.

"He's doing a real good job of it so, we're really happy with what we've seen so far. Now, we'll put it to the real test."

LEARNING POSITION

But Charlton readily admits he is still learning the position.

"It's a new world out there," said the 6-foot, 211-pound Virginia Tech grad. "I'm still getting used to it. I've still got DB in my mind so it's different, big time.

"I'm used to playing free safety in the NFL, plus I'm used to being a nickel guy. So, I'm used to being inside. The only difference is, I've got to tackle. I've got these big guys (offensive linemen) running at me in certain cases when I'm in the box. But I'm a physical guy. That's what my trademark was when I was in school and my first couple of years in the league. I was a big, physical corner so, as far as me hitting somebody, I love it."

Charlton, 28, was a second-round draft pick by Seattle in 2000 and played all 16 games for the Seahawks that season. In fact, Charlton once roomed with current Bomber teammate Omar Evans in Seattle. The Seahawks released him after the 2001 season and hopped from team-to-team for the next few years before arriving in Winnipeg in time to play two CFL games last season.

Charlton blamed his NFL frustration on "turf toe" that affected his 4.40-speed. But he at least got a chance to familiarize himself with the CFL last year.

"That first game, it was like I had my head cut off out there, with motion guys and nobody's stationary," he said. "But I kind of settled down and in the Calgary game, I turned it on and showed what I can do. I showed so much in that game that the coaches were like, 'OK, we can change his position.'

"It's not really a linebacker, it's a DB but for certain cases. I would say 90% of the time, I'm covering somebody. I had a pretty camp so, I've just got to stay focused and continue to build on it."

Because of the front four that will play in front of Charlton, Berry said he is not worried about exposing a smaller linebacker there.

"I think we're going to be pretty good this year," Charlton said. "A lot of people probably don't expect that but once we come together and jell, we've got a lot of speed on defence, and speed kills."


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