Simpson a healthy scratch

KIRK PENTON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:38 AM ET

Last week the team could say he was back practising simply to work off the rust.

Today there is no getting around the status of Winnipeg Blue Bombers middle linebacker Barrin Simpson: healthy scratch.

"That always sucks," Simpson said yesterday in the bone-chilling breeze after practice. "You always want to play, but I'm a team player. My job on the team right now is to wait and see what happens, and that's what I gotta do.

"I'm not going to make a fuss and gripe and moan and complain about it. I'm a team player."

That he is, but it sure is odd to see Simpson, the Minister of Defence, lining up with the scout team. It just doesn't seem right considering he had 118 tackles in both 2006 and 2007.

To be fair, though, it wasn't supposed to be this way, and the 31-year-old is still on the nine-game injured list.

TORE PECTORAL MUSCLE

When Simpson tore his right pectoral muscle against his former team, the B.C. Lions, on July 18, the team said he was all but done for the season.

He was replaced in the lineup by rookie Joe Lobendahn, who filled his shoes quite admirably. It looked like the kid would be able to hold the fort.

Then something happened that ultimately put Simpson in the situation he finds himself today: Lobendahn went down with a serious knee injury in the first half of the Banjo Bowl.

A day later the Bombers pulled off a major trade, acquiring stud middle linebacker Zeke Moreno, who had a CFL-high 126 tackles last season, from the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

Problem solved. Simpson, remember, was done for the season.

No one told Simpson that, however, and last week, less than three months after suffering the injury, he was back on the practice field.

So now Winnipeg has two of last year's three CFL all-star linebackers ready to go. There were rumblings Simpson might be taken off the nine-game list for Sunday's game in Montreal, but he was informed earlier this week that wasn't going to be the case.

For Simpson, it's like the supermodel finding out she's not hot enough to get back with her old boyfriend.

GM Brendan Taman claims there is still a chance Simpson could be back this season. There wouldn't be a cap hit if he returns for the East Division semifinal, but it's unlikely the Bombers would start him cold in a must-win game.

Both Simpson and head coach Doug Berry used the phrase "It is what it is" yesterday, which is the new way of saying, "I know what's really going on here, but I just don't want to say it out loud."

Simpson is well aware that management is in a pickle with so many starting middle linebackers in the locker-room -- not just for the rest of this season but beyond. He doesn't blame the brass for grabbing Moreno after both he and Lobendahn went down.

"That's the business of the game," he said. "Everybody knows that. So that's why I wouldn't fuss about it. I know the business.

"I'm healthy now. That's the important thing. We'll deal with next year at the end of the year, but right now it's my job to come out here, practise hard, be prepared to go and help the team get better."

You would expect nothing less from a man like Simpson, who deserves a lot of credit for the way he is handling the situation.

"It's tough," Berry said. "Barrin's a great leader, and that's why he commands so much respect when he plays. It's the type of person that he is. He understands the situation that we're in as far as management, and he understands what we gave up to get a good linebacker here who's playing well, and he understands that he is on nine-game, and if he were not on nine-game it might be something different.

"... He understands that. But that's Barrin. He's a good man."


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