Blue may adjust to play Shabazz

KIRK PENTON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 11:12 AM ET

How to get Siddeeq Shabazz and Joe Lobendahn on the field at the same time.

That is the question.

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers could face an odd situation coming out of their bye week this morning: Shabazz and Lobendahn might actually be healthy together for the first time this season.

And considering how well the two weak-side linebackers have played when they've been at full strength (not at the same time, mind you), what's a Bomber coaching staff to do?

Despite missing two games with an ankle injury, Shabazz is tied for the CFL lead with four interceptions. Lobendahn, meanwhile, flies around and hurts people.

Whatever happens, defensive co-ordinator Mark Nelson is confident the story will have a happy ending.

"We can finagle, and we can play a little more trio (a 3-4 defensive set in which there are three defensive linemen and four linebackers)," Nelson said yesterday.

"There's a couple different scenarios that we can throw out there and look at and see. We don't want to have good football players standing on the sideline, and it's better to have those guys on the field."

The Bombers could switch to more of a 3-4 scheme since defensive end Fred Perry is out for the rest of the season with a broken arm. Tackle Dorian Smith could become an end (he worked out at the position last season when he was on the practice roster), and Shabazz and Lobendahn could be on the field at the same time.

If the Bombers don't want to go there, Canadians Riall Johnson or Shawn Mayne could step into Perry's spot at defensive end.

Nelson wasn't about to reveal any secrets, but he didn't rule out more 3-4 formations from his defence.

"It's always an option," he said. "You always ask: Who are our best 12 guys, how do we get them out there, and how can we play within our scheme? And then if we have to change the scheme, so be it."

ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT: Nelson said if there was one area in which his defence could improve, it's getting pressure on the quarterback.

Overall, he's pleased -- but never completely satisfied -- with his troops.

"We're not bad, but we can be real good," he said. "We gotta take that next step. And that next step happens in practice. If you do it in practice, you have a chance to do it in the game.

"If you don't do it in practice, you ain't doing it in the game."

LATE HITS: The Bombers, who are third in the East Division with a 3-5 record, will practise for an hour this morning, starting at 9:15 ... Nelson said he expects Dorian Smith (shoulder) and Ian Logan (groin), who missed the Aug. 21 game in B.C., to be on the field today ... As of 3 p.m. yesterday, the Bombers had sold 28,226 for the Sept. 13 Banjo Bowl. Jerry Maslowsky, the team's director of marketing, wants Bomber fans to scoop up the remaining 1,400 tickets. "I don't want to see any more green," he said ... Bomber fans are reminded to vote for Ken Ploen as the CFL's most outstanding player of the '60s at cfl.ca.

kirk.penton@sunmedia.ca


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