Joe Lobendahn is the man in the middle, in more ways than one.
The second-year Bomber linebacker finds himself embroiled in the Barrin Simpson saga for a couple of reasons.
For starters, he is Winnipeg's new middle linebacker now that Simpson has demanded a trade and will sit out tomorrow's Banjo Bowl against the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
Second, Lobendahn will lose his mentor, road roommate and close friend if the Bombers and Simpson part ways.
"He has to do what he has to do to support him and his family, so whatever decision he makes, I'm all for it," Lobendahn said. "He's my friend, he's my best friend, he's my mentor, he taught me a lot of things.
"He was there for me last year when he got hurt and when I stepped in."
While Simpson said the Bombers weren't trying to win by reducing his role, Lobendahn believes the Minister of Defence is not a selfish player.
"Never. He's a team player," Lobendahn said.
Lobendahn took over for Simpson last July when the latter tore his biceps, but he lasted only a month before suffering a season-ending knee injury. Lobendahn also got hurt in this year's season-opener and missed four games.
The hard-hitting Hawaii native is ready to assume the middle linebacker role once again.
"It's tough to see what's been going on here on our team, but I just try to stay focused and do my job," he said. "And that's all I can do. I'm here to stay, I'm here to play and win games."
NOTHING TO SEE HERE: Even though he wasn't participating in the workout, it was a little strange to see Simpson on the practice field yesterday.
Normally players who request trades are quarantined, but that's not the case with Simpson.
"I don't feel uncomfortable at all," he said. "Hey, right now I'm still a part of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. I don't have any animosity towards the coaches or anything. To me, it's just part of the business."
QUOTABLE: "Our coaching staff handled this with the utmost professionalism."
-- President/CEO Lyle Bauer, in regards to the Simpson situation
LATE HITS: The Bombers will make at least four roster changes for tomorrow's sold-out clash with the Riders. Quarterback Casey Bramlet, defensive tackle Michael Landry, cornerback James Johnson and safety Ian Logan will go on, while quarterback Stefan LeFors (shoulder), safety Brady Browne (elbow) and Simpson will come off. The fourth to come off will likely be cornerback Brandon Stewart ... The Bombers will hold their annual Fan Appreciation Day today at the stadium. The fun starts at 10 a.m., and an autograph session runs from noon to 1:30 p.m.