The Blue Bombers are about to have a big headache on their hands.
Make that a triple-size migraine.
Veteran Winnipeg middle linebacker Barrin Simpson returned to practice yesterday for the first time since he suffered a torn pectoral muscle July 18. Since his much-heralded signing in 2006, the 'Minister of Defence' has been one of the club's most effective leaders both on and off the field.
Soon to follow Simpson will be Joe Lobendahn, the middle linebacker who first replaced the injured Simpson and did such an admirable job, the Bomber defence barely missed a beat without the veteran.
After Lobendahn suffered a knee injury, Bombers GM Brandan Taman acquired middle linebacker Zeke Moreno in a trade with Hamilton. Moreno currently leads the league in defensive tackles. In fact, Moreno led the CFL in that category last season -- with Simpson right on his heels.
So once both Simpson and Lobendahn are ready to play, what will the Bombers do?
"That's a good problem to have," responded an upbeat Simpson. "But, as far as getting back on to the field, that will be up to the coaches and Brendan (Taman). But right now, it's my job to do what I'm asked to in practice and be ready to go whenever they say, 'Let's go.'
"I'll be ready to play soon. So, I'm just out here having fun ... They will actually release me (from the nine-game injured list) to play next week. Whether that happens, I don't know. I'll be able to play but will I play?"
Bomber head coach Doug Berry is doubtful.
"He'll have to go a couple of weeks of practice to make sure that he's ready for game conditions," he said.
Then what? Dress him as a designated import? Move Simpson or Moreno to weak-side linebacker and sit Cam Hall? Or leave one of Winnipeg's highest-paid players (at more than $150,000 per annum) on the sidelines and let Taman deal with Simpson's future here in the off-season?
Simpson, who just turned 31, is not about to fret about it.
"Right now, the only thing we've talked about is right now and that was, 'Get back on the field' " he said. "So we'll take it day-by-day and go by whatever the coaches feel should be done. So, it's my job right now to practise and help the team as much as possible."
But surely, it must be preying on the back of his mind.
"No, I mean, this is a business and everybody knows it's a business," Simpson said. "So, it's just a matter of doing your job right now and worry about the rest later."
Taman has said that he will deal with the Simpson situation in the off-season.
"Barrin has still played quite well for us," Taman told Sun Media recently. "By no means is he done."
Yet, it is doubtful that the veteran would accept a pay cut.
Simpson, meanwhile, has returned from injury much sooner than expected, just as he had told everyone he would.
"It feels good to be back out here and have fun again," said the 5-foot-11, 230-pound Mississippi State product. "It's been brutal not practising, especially not being out there and practising with the guys. That was brutal because I had trained six months for that, then 'Boom, you're out.'
"That was tough to deal with it but hey, from the other aspect of it, I had a mindset and a goal to get back ready to play and ready to practise ... It felt normal. I was pass-rushing and hitting guys, playing the run. I said I would only go back out there if it felt like it felt before I hurt it. So, it felt good."