June 25, 2012
Stewart gets new assignment
By KIRK PENTON, QMI Agency
WINNIPEG - Funny how it all worked out, huh?
On Sunday, Jonathan Hefney made it crystal clear he had no interest in moving from halfback to become the team’s new strong-side linebacker, even though it appeared the coaching staff had him at No. 1 on the depth chart.
On Monday, the Bombers announced cornerback Brandon Stewart, who was supposedly competing with Hefney for the spot, was the team’s new strong-side linebacker in place of the released Clint Kent.
“It was going to be me or Hef, and Hef made it clear he’s not playing it,” Stewart said. “So I’ll step up and try to hit a home run for the boys.”
The situation created a bit of discussion among Bomber fans. On one side were those who said Hefney is the team’s best defensive player and deserves to play where he wants and is successful. On the other was a faction who believed Hefney should do what was best for the team and leave his personal wishes out of it.
The good part for the Bombers is Hefney is happy. And he’s not always happy, as evidenced by his Twitter outburst in the off-season that criticized team management for letting key free agents get away. He simply wants to play beside his partner in football thievery, Jovon Johnson, and that’s where he’ll remain.
Head coach Paul LaPolice actually laughed when asked if Hefney’s reluctance to play the position had any impact on the decision to make Stewart the strong-side linebacker. The question wasn’t meant to be funny.
“No. I certainly had a conversation with Hef, but if we felt our best lineup would have been with Hef at (linebacker), we would’ve put Hef at (linebacker) and he would’ve handled it like a pro,” LaPolice said.
Speaking of handling it like a pro, Stewart, a bubbly, charismatic character, is excited about his move. Going from field corner, which is on the wide side of the field, to strong-side linebacker, which is on the short side of the field and closer to the line of scrimmage, is quite the adjustment. Stewart called it “night and day,” and he would be correct in his assessment.
“I’m a team player. I just go wherever my coach asks me to play,” said Stewart, who has played a handful of positions in three years with the Bombers.
“I’m a plug-in-and-play type of guy. I feel like that’s always what I’ve been. I’m a big corner anyway, so (linebacker) should be a nice transition.
“I don’t mind it. It’ll get me closer to the action, give me a chance to make more plays.”
Stewart, continuing to prove that he always looks at the bright side, also noted he’ll be covering slower receivers instead of the speedsters who usually line up on the wide side of the field.
The other day I wrote about how the Bombers are quite young and need leadership.
The good news for them is they have a blossoming leader in Stewart.