Mixed signals for Bombers

PAUL FRIESEN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:13 AM ET

It was early this week, and Blue Bomber head coach Mike Kelly was stepping gingerly into his daily media scrum.

"I'm trying to keep things as quiet as possible this week," a grinning Kelly said, referring to the Pacman Jones and radio call-in show fiascos that dominated the headlines the previous week.

Ah, the best laid plans ...

Preparing for what is arguably the biggest game of the season, Kelly's regime has been blindsided by yet another off-field distraction and public relations challenge, this time a trade demand by linebacker Barrin Simpson, one of the heart-and-soul players in that locker-room (how's that message control going so far, coach?).

Turns out Simpson has a selfish streak nobody knew existed, at least that's what Kelly was trying to sell yesterday.

"I'm disappointed any time an individual puts himself ahead of the team," Kelly said. "Regardless of who that individual is, whether he's deemed as being a leader or not."

The coach even went so far as to say Simpson's move was "not a whole lot" different than receiver Derick Armstrong's refusal to take a backup role in the first game of the season.

That confrontation, of course, led to Armstrong getting his walking papers.

But Simpson won't be getting his walking papers, since his salary is guaranteed for the rest of the season.

Kelly even suggested he has no interest in trading the guy, which goes against previous claims he doesn't want players who don't want to be here.

So what do we make of this latest episode of As the Bombers Turn?

Let's start with this notion that Simpson recently went shopping at the ego store, splurging for the biggest one he could find.

Fans should know the Minister of Defence has actually been keeping his unhappiness quiet for at least three weeks, and never wanted his request to be moved made public.

That's where Kelly and defensive co-ordinator Mark Nelson made their first mistake.

Instead of being decisive and clear on where they wanted to go, they strung this thing along, through the bye week, without any action.

Late Thursday night, Simpson's desire to be moved, coming to a head because of the team's plans to sit him out this week, leaked out. And the ordained minister wasn't going to lie about it when he was asked.

Agree or disagree with the coaches' plan to reduce Simpson's role. You could certainly make an argument for having Joe Lobendahn, Siddeeq Shabazz and Ike Charlton on the field as your linebackers, even though all the players we talked to don't think Simpson has lost a thing.

But the Bomber brass has now let this thing drag on to the point where their hands are tied.

They can't cut Simpson without eating his salary because of the rule for veterans who've played nine games.

They can't keep playing him because he's unhappy, and that's not good for anybody.

And they'll have a tough time trading him, now that the entire CFL knows he's a spare part here, and a squeaky one, at that.

Add it all up, and you've got yet another mismanaged situation.

Derick Armstrong. Kelly Bates. Stefan LeFors. Pacman Jones. Barrin Simpson.

This team lacks decisive, professional leadership.

One minute Simpson is told he's playing great, the next he's being yanked from the lineup.

Stefan LeFors is the franchise quarterback one week, banished to the bench the next.

Pacman Jones welcomed with open arms one day, spurned the one after that.

It's funny, this regime has had so much trouble signaling offensive plays onto the field.

It also continues to send mixed signals to its players off it.

Contact Paul at paul.friesen@sunmedia.ca or 632-2788.


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