Another day, another episode of the Gong Show on Maroons Road.
In yet another instance of Winnipeg Blue Bombers gone wild, middle linebacker Barrin Simpson -- one of the most revered and respected players in the locker-room -- has demanded a trade because the coaching staff tried to get him to take a reduced role.
The Bombers are standing pat -- for now, at least. They want to see how they play against the Saskatchewan Roughriders tomorrow in the Banjo Bowl (without Simpson, who's officially on the one-game injured list) before making any kind of move.
"We'll see how this plays out this week," president and CEO Lyle Bauer said.
"He can go ahead and (ask for a trade), but he's not going to force our hand or anything," head coach Mike Kelly added.
Simpson's contract is guaranteed for the rest of the season because he has at least six years experience, so time is not an issue. It turns out this isn't the first time Simpson has asked the Bombers to send him packing. According to Bauer, the 31-year-old also wanted to be dealt last October when he learned he wasn't going to play after coming off the nine-game injured list.
The Bombers, who had a different regime in charge last year, refused to trade him. Firings occurred in the off-season, and the Minister of Defence, second in the CFL with 58 tackles, took a pay cut and re-signed with the Blue and Gold in January.
Despite dealing with a nasty turf toe injury, Simpson shot out of the gates this year and led the league in tackles until recently. His pace slowed over the last few games, and the coaching staff, which put plans in motion last month to decrease his role, wanted to use him in select defensive packages in an attempt to get him healthy.
"We were trying to get some longevity out of him," said Kelly, who added Simpson told special teams coach Rick Campbell earlier this week he was worried his toe was affecting his play.
Don't want to win
The way Simpson sees it, the team simply wants to demote him and go with Joe Lobendahn at middle linebacker and Siddeeq Shabazz on the weak side. He added that means the Bombers don't want to win.
What really got Simpson's knickers in a knot is his claim that the coaching staff told him he is playing well but still wants to limit his role.
" 'No, you've been playing great' was the comment to me," said Simpson, who will continue to be around the team. "And I was like, well, I don't understand it. So I was like, please, just respectfully give me a trade ... It's just a business disagreement."
Kelly spoke about Simpson yesterday in the same way he did about Derick Armstrong two months ago. The Bombers cut the receiver after he refused to take a backup role in the season-opener.
"I'm disappointed any time an individual puts himself ahead of the team, regardless of who that individual is, whether he's deemed as being a leader or not," Kelly said.
And just like he did during the Armstrong saga, Kelly pointed out yesterday that there were 52 other players in the locker-room who were getting ready for tomorrow's Banjo Bowl but instead were being asked about Simpson.
In other words, it didn't take much analysis to figure out how Kelly feels about the nine-year CFL veteran.
Simpson, however, said he's not a selfish player.
"No, not at all," he said, pointing to his biceps injury last season. "... That was totally (being) a team player. When I got hurt, knowing that Joe was behind me, if I was a selfish player, I wouldn't have tried to help him."
It's unlikely the Bombers would be willing to trade Simpson to another East Division team, but it's believed there would be plenty of interest in the six-time all-star.
"A veteran presence with play-making qualities is always worth something on the open market," one CFL executive said yesterday.