Bombers' above average Joe

Middle linebacker Joe Lobendahn explored his free agent options before deciding to return to the...

Middle linebacker Joe Lobendahn explored his free agent options before deciding to return to the Bombers. After a difficult 2010 season, Lobendahn has had an outstanding training camp so far.

KIRK PENTON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:27 AM ET

WINNIPEG - Paul LaPolice was asked Tuesday who stood out on the third day of training camp.

The Bombers coach rattled off about 10 names, and one of the last ones he sneaked in there was that of middle linebacker Joe Lobendahn. It was the first time in a while his name has been mentioned on Maroons Road in a positive light.

From GM Joe Mack hinting prior to free agency the Bombers would be comfortable with Rico McCoy at middle linebacker to defensive co-ordinator Tim Burke saying Lobendahn had to be much better in 2011, it had to have been a tough winter for the 28-year-old.

Despite playing nearly a full season for the first time in his three-year career, the injury-prone Lobendahn averaged just more than three tackles per game in 2010. When he become a free agent in mid-February and his agent said it was unlikely hed be back in Winnipeg, it appeared his time in the Manitoba capital was over.

However, a few short days later came word the Bombers were back in the mix. Twenty-four hours later they had agreed to terms on a new deal.

I was a free agent, and I explored my options, Lobendahn said Tuesday. It didnt happen, so I came back here and they offered me a contract. So I was just happy that they brought me back. I cant complain.

While incumbents like Terrence Edwards and Doug Brown dont have to worry about losing their starting spots, the same cant be said for Lobendahn. McCoy, who missed the first two days of camp with the flu, was back on the field Tuesday, and first overall draft pick Henoc Muamba is already ahead of schedule.

That being said, Lobendahn has returned to Winnipeg with a vengeance. He split his off-season between Hawaii and Seattle, and he slimmed down a bit after focusing on his diet.

Joe has really come back great, linebackers coach Casey Creehan said. Hes in great shape, hes seeing things well, hes reacting well, hes being a leader. I couldnt be more pleased with him.

Creehan said the hard-hitting Hawaiians 2010 campaign wasnt a complete write-off.

He was peaks and valleys, and I want it to see it just be peaks. I want it more consistent, he said.

Right now Joe Lobendahns my starting (middle) linebacker. He had a good year. Could he have had a better one? Absolutely. Will he have a better one in the future? He sure will. So I wanted him here, and Im glad hes here.

Hes exceeding expectations right now.

Lobendahn, who is playing for his fourth defensive co-ordinator in four years, he accepts full responsibility for his play last season, and is happy to have a chance to redeem himself.

Im here. Im focused, he said. Its a new season. So its a new start.


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