Minister of Defence takes pay cut to stay with Bombers

KIRK PENTON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:29 AM ET

Barrin Simpson didn't like the way things went down last year.

The Minister of Defence was so displeased with the situation that he asked the Winnipeg Blue Bombers management to release him at season's end.

The brass told him to be patient, that changes were likely coming.

Those changes happened, and now Simpson is back.

The veteran CFL middle linebacker has agreed to a new contract, which includes a significant pay cut from his old $180,000 salary, to remain with the Bombers, even though they already have all-star Zeke Moreno patrolling the position.

Simpson said he has been given some assurances about playing time, but he wouldn't get specific.

"Let's just say we know I'm not going to be sitting on the bench," he said yesterday from his Dallas/Fort Worth-area home. "That's not happening."

Simpson suffered a torn pectoral muscle last July, and it was believed he was going to miss the rest of the season. He rehabilitated quickly, however, and was healthy enough to play with a few weeks left in the regular season.

The team, having acquired Moreno from the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in September after Simpson replacement Joe Lobendahn went down himself, kept Simpson on the nine-game injured list, however. That didn't sit well with Simpson, a perennial CFL leader when it comes to tackles.

"Definitely I didn't think I was coming back, because of the situation there with the former regime," Simpson said. "I just didn't agree with certain things."

"... Once I saw the moves (head coach Doug Berry was fired in December), I wasn't opposed to being in Winnipeg."

New head coach Mike Kelly doesn't seem to be bothered by the fact that he has two bona fide starting middle linebackers under contract. He didn't rule out playing a 3-4 defensive scheme at times, depending on a variety of factors.

"Everybody gets so locked in about having two guys at one position," Kelly said. "That's not how I think. I don't think that way. I think about getting your best football players on the field.

"... Get your athletes on the field and let 'em go, let 'em run. And Barrin fits into that. We'll just have to see."

Also mudding things up is the presence of Lobendahn, who, like Simpson, could also play weak-side linebacker if he had to. It's unlikely that last year's weak-side 'backer Cam Hall, who will become a free agent next month, will be back after he struggled mightily over the last two months of the 2008 season.

A trade would not be out of the question, but Simpson simply wants to play football.

"My body feels even better now, so I'm a little anxious to get back out there on the field and hit somebody," he said. "I've got a bit of a chip on my shoulder, and I'm ready to play some football.

"... I'm excited. Whatever happens, happens. But as far as right now, as far as I know, I'm a Bomber."


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