As the football turns

PAUL FRIESEN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:57 AM ET

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers could win the Grey Cup this year. It is not a pipe dream.

Because what we witnessed on the practice field yesterday proves one thing about this crazy, 2009 season: anything could happen -- at any time.

The sight of No. 5 taking his familiar turns in the middle of the Winnipeg defence might just take the cake for unlikely occurrences on Maroons Road.

If you'd told me Barrin Simpson would be traded, fine.

If you'd said he'd be suspended, no problem.

Unceremoniously sent home after a fist fight with Doug Brown, even, never to be seen again -- I'd have believed it.

But suiting up for head coach Mike Kelly again?

Not on your life.

You don't clean out a guy's locker and banish him from the room if you think there's any hope for reconciliation.

You don't publicly accuse him of quitting on his teammates, then ask him to move back into his old spot.

But that's exactly where Simpson was yesterday, just two stalls away from Brown, his old locker-room neighbour, who exactly two weeks earlier had called Simpson's presence uncomfortable.

"When you're 3-8," Brown said that day. "I don't think guys need to wonder necessarily who's got their backs and who's looking for the door out."

Simpson had been looking for the door out, all right. Unhappy with the mixed messages the coaches were sending about his play, he's wanted to be traded for more than six weeks.

Four weeks ago, his trade request became public, and less than two weeks after that Simpson was barred from the locker-room and practice.

Since then, including as recently as Tuesday, Kelly said Simpson was no longer his concern.

So what's changed?

Well, for starters, middle linebacker Joe Lobendahn is on the limp with a bad hamstring.

"That doesn't have anything to do with it," Kelly said.

Of course not. Just a coincidence that the Bombers called Simpson's agent and told him to be at practice yesterday.

"I was called, told to report to work at 9:00 and here I am," Simpson said. "You move on. I'm obligated to the contract. I'm a pro."

Kelly alerted a few of the players, including Brown, that Simpson was coming back.

After assuring his teammates he was back on side at a players-only meeting yesterday, Simpson is suddenly a good bet to be the starting middle linebacker in a critical game in Hamilton, Thanksgiving Monday.

"Just a healthy employee that showed up for work," is how Kelly tried to describe this latest twist.

So the Professor and the Minister have reconciled?

"There was never any big conflict," Kelly said.

Uh, didn't you say he quit on his teammates, coach?

"He did quit on the team," Kelly said "What's happened in the past is done."

And Simpson's reaction to his coach saying he quit on the team?

"I don't really think I need to respond to that," he said. "Everybody knows the situation."

Yes, we do.

With a game looming that'll all but determine their playoff hopes, and with the injury to Lobendahn, the Bombers desperately need Simpson.

And Simpson has realized he needs the Bombers, or he may have made his last career tackle.

Visiting his sick father in Mississippi, and watching him lose part of his foot due to an infection brought on by diabetes, brought the Minister a little perspective, no doubt.

But by and large, this is a remarriage of convenience.

It might not even be the end of the Simpson Diaries. After all, there's still that trade request.

"Next question," Simpson said, asked if he still wanted out.

My question: what are the odds of it all?

About the same as this team going all the way.

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


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