Lobendahn release makes way for MuambaMake way for Muamba for job
By KIRK PENTON, QMI Agency
|The Bombers released injury-prone linebacker Joe Lobendahn on Friday. (Chris Procaylo/QMI Agency/Files)
WINNIPEG - Joe Lobendahn faced many hurdles in his bid to remain a member of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in 2012.
The fact he has torn the same ACL three times, the other injuries he sustained over the years and his age (29) hurt his chances in GM Joe Mack’s eyes.
The dagger that ended Lobendahn’s four-year stint with the Blue and Gold happened on Thursday afternoon, when the B.C. Lions moved up to grab defensive end Jabar Westerman with the second overall pick in the CFL draft.
The Bombers had hoped to get Westerman at No. 3 and potentially start him on the defensive line this season. When the Leos stole Westerman, it sealed Lobendahn’s fate because it means the Bombers will be starting a Canadian at middle linebacker this season to get up to the required seven Canuck starters.
“We would’ve reconsidered if we had gotten Westerman,” Mack said.
The Blue and Gold released Lobendahn and special teamer Jerry-Ralph Jules on Friday, which opens the door for either Henoc Muamba or Pierre-Luc Labbe to be the team’s middle linebacker this season.
“When we don’t get a defensive lineman from a ratio change standpoint, we have to do it at linebacker,” Mack said Friday. “Joe doesn’t fit the criteria as a non-import. It was hard for me, but we had to do what was best for the team at this point.”
The Bombers drafted Muamba first overall last year because defensive tackle Doug Brown was playing his final season in 2011 and they needed a Canadian on the defensive side of the ball to replace him. Labbe started last November’s Grey Cup, but Muamba will be the front-runner going into training camp.
“He’s going to be given every chance to show that he can do it, but if Pierre outperforms in training camp then Pierre will get the nod,” Mack said.
Lobendahn was a hard-hitting beast when he was healthy, but those times were few and far between. He played in only 45 of a possible 72 games over his four seasons, registering 180 tackles, 20 special teams tackles, seven sacks and one interception. He tore his ACL for the third time last September.
“Coming back from a third ACL on the same knee is awfully tough,” Mack said. “Our medical staff could not find any precedent to anybody ever coming back from that to play football.”
Mack tried his best to draft University of North Dakota punter Brett Cameron on Thursday, but he couldn’t corral a late-round pick to use on the son of Bomber legend Bob Cameron.
“We really wanted to draft Brett, but nobody stepped up to offer a pick,” Mack said. “We would love to give him the opportunity. Bob’s a great guy, and his son has done some good things.”
Cameron still has a year of eligibility remaining at UND, so don’t be surprised to see him at camp next year.
The Bombers secured the rights to two more Canadians in the annual selection of players who got passed over in the draft.
Each CFL team submits a preferred list of players who weren’t selected, and each squad gets two players based on waiver priority. The Bombers landed Sherbrooke defensive lineman Jean-Sebastien Laberge, who will compete at offensive line in Winnipeg, and Saint Mary’s defensive lineman Rob Jubenville.
Winnipeg also added a pair of imports on Friday, signing speedy 5-foot-9 South Dakota receiver and returner Jeremy Blount, and defensive back David Pender Jr., who appeared in three games for the Indianapolis Colts in 2010.