Simpson, Lobendahn both dress

KIRK PENTON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:29 AM ET

The more things change with the Bombers, the more they stay the same.

Barrin Simpson will get the start at middle linebacker in Sunday's must-win match against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, and Joe Lobendahn will back him up.

"Barrin played well last week, and Joe's coming off the injury," head coach Mike Kelly said. "We don't want to get caught in a situation where we just had Joe on and not Barrin and Joe's hamstring goes.

"When you have two players of their calibre and we have a game of this magnitude, you need to have them both on the roster."

Lobendahn, who missed the last two games with a hamstring injury, will come on the field as the fourth linebacker in Winnipeg's 3-4 defensive set.

In other words, the situation has come full circle. Simpson demanded a trade after the coaching staff said they were reducing his playing time, and he was eventually told to stay away from the team.

He returned last month when Lobendahn injured his hamstring the first time, and now he's back where it all began.

BROWN BAGS A PAIR: Defensive tackle Doug Brown, named Winnipeg's top defensive and Canadian player yesterday, said Milt Stegall has helped him thrive well into his 30s.

The 35-year-old Brown is one of Winnipeg's hardest-working players in practice. Whether it's running sprints or doing crunches with close friend Jon Oosterhuis, Brown never stops moving.

"Milt taught me that a long time ago, that your work ethic goes a long way in football," Brown said. "It's truly one of the few jobs you can have that's an input-output vocation, in terms of what you put into it."

BROTHER BATTLE? Winnipeg defensive back Jonathan Hefney and Edmonton running back Arkee Whitlock technically aren't brothers, but they grew up in the same house in South Carolina.

Both were named rookies of the year on their respective teams yesterday, and it's possible they could go head-to-head during Grey Cup week in Calgary.

Kelly is a big fan of Hefney, a weak-side halfback who has four interceptions to show for often going against the opponent's top receiver.

"If you ask around the league, most people would say that he's playing about as good as anybody at the position, regardless if he's a rookie or a veteran," Kelly said.

SPECIAL MOVE: Jovon Johnson didn't start returning punts until Week 7, and he didn't assume the kickoff-return duties until Week 9.

Thanks to a pair of return touchdowns, however, he was named Winnipeg's top special teams player yesterday.

"I never thought that I would even play special teams, let alone be nominated for that," Johnson said.

BEGINNINGS OF A BLUEOUT? Approximately 50 fans -- along with Kelly and a few players -- showed up at Portage and Main yesterday afternoon for a fan-organized Bomber rally.

Those in attendance said the crowd may have been small, but they were loud and generated plenty of honks from passing motorists.

Momentum among the fan base appears to be building, as the Bombers had sold 25,200 tickets for Sunday's game as of 3:30 p.m. yesterday.

LATE HITS: Johnson (ankle) and Hefney (ankle) are expected to hit the field this morning after sitting out the first two days of practice, while a decision on backup safety Shawn Gallant (knee) will be made today ... Defensive tackle Dorian Smith, who took a breather last week, will draw back into the lineup on Sunday ... Slotback Terrence Edwards (turf toe) took mental reps yesterday but will play against the Ticats.

kirk.penton@sunmedia.ca


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