Joe Lobendahn says he is back — even though he didn’t go anywhere.
To do that, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers middle linebacker took a trip back in time to figure out what was wrong with his game.
Lobendahn used the bye week to review game tape from his high school days in Hawaii and his college career in Washington. What he learned was rather simple: Get after the darn ball!
“I just kind of looked back to see what I had done in the first several games, and I just didn’t like it,” Lobendahn said Thursday. “So I just had to get back to what I used to be when I first got here.
‘Make that play’
“… I like to make plays. I like to be the one in the middle of everything, because I thrive on that. When we need a play, I tell myself that I’m going to make that play. I’m going to make this next big play. It’s on me.”
For reasons he can’t explain, the 27-year-old was not in the middle of the fray in the weeks leading up to the bye, which probably not coincidentally parallelled the team’s five-game losing streak.
Lobendahn was mostly invisible in late July and August, and injuries played a part in that, even if he won’t admit it. He figures if he was healthy enough to go on the field, he was healthy enough to make plays.
“I’m not going to make excuses,” he said. “That’s what I’m going to say. It was my fault. And now I’m back. The old Joe is back.”
Lobendahn looked more like the man who has little disregard for his body when the Bombers returned from their bye week to play in the Labour Day Classic. He was solid again last week in Winnipeg’s 31-2 thumping of the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the Banjo Bowl rematch, even though he finished with only one tackle.
Lobendahn spoke before the season about wanting to put himself in better position on the field rather than relying on his speed to come from a distance and deliver crushing blows, which often resulted in injuries.
That new approach is part of what wasn’t working for Lobendahn earlier this season, so expect to see the Hawaiian flyin’ a little more down the stretch.
“You’re going to see me out there more, like flying around and throwing my body into piles. There will be more of that,” he said.
“There wasn’t that much in the first half for some reason. I don’t know what happened. I kind of just talked to myself and told myself that I gotta get back.”
Lobendahn also admitted he probably took on too much of a leadership role after taking over for the departed Barrin Simpson.
“There was a lot going on, and there were a lot of new guys on the team, and I think I was trying to do too much,” he said. “Now that we’re kind of gelling together, now that they’re getting used to the game, I can finally do me within the scheme.”