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Can Rouse help Blue D?

NFL castoff could fit at safety or linebacker

Aaron ROUSE is not a man of many words, at least not with reporters hanging on each one, probing where the former NFL defensive back came from.

How did the former Virginia Tech standout wind up in Winnipeg, where he made his debut at practice with the Blue Bombers on Thursday?

Newcomer Aaron Rouse, who spent four seasons as a defensive back in the NFL, is being considered for a job at linebacker by Winnipeg’s brain trust.

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Newcomer Aaron Rouse, who spent four seasons as a defensive back in the NFL, is being considered for a job at linebacker by Winnipeg’s brain trust. Photo Store

"That's a good question," Rouse said. "It's just an opportunity I was happy to take advantage of."

OK, what did he do after the Arizona Cardinals waived him in August 2010?

"I played in the UFL (United Football League)," he said.

And what happened after that league collapsed after four games last year, while Rouse was playing safety for his home-state Virginia Destroyers?

"There's no days off in football, you know that," he said. "Training is year-round."

Thing is, the Bombers don't need Rouse to talk. What they need is for the 29-year-old safety-slash-linebacker to show some legs, the kind that ran him through 41 NFL games with the Green Bay Packers, who drafted him 89th overall in 2007, and the New York Giants.

He had some success in the big league, earning 18 starts and making 109 tackles, 11 pass knockdowns and four interceptions; he returned one of those 99 yards for a touchdown.

It didn't last. Rouse signed with Arizona in 2010, but they let him go just two weeks later and only two days after he suffered whiplash in a car crash.

The team needed to make space for a new wide receiver and other teams likely passed him over in favour of younger, cheaper options; it was "situational things" that pushed him from the NFL, Rouse said, not performance.

Still, no point in dwelling on it.

"That's something I try not to think about so much," Rouse said. "All I can do is make sure I prepare, train hard and move forward. My (NFL) stats and everything, my numbers speak for itself."

And boy, do the Bombers need more guys on the defence whose numbers make a statement. Coaches are mulling the idea of playing him at linebacker, but he is most experienced at safety, where non-import Cauchy Muamba has struggled this season. The 6-4, 223-pound Rouse took second-team reps in that position on Thursday.

"He ran really well for us," said head coach Tim Burke after putting the team through its paces. "We're really looking forward to see what he can do."

One small catch: If the Bombers want to see him at safety, where Muamba now sits, they would have to start another non-import somewhere else. Where that would be remains to be seen. Burke hinted they were hunting for more new talent that could open options.

"If he was a free safety, for example, he should have great range," Burke said. "He runs fast, he's long body, long arms. That would help with man coverage as well."

On the plus side, Burke and company will have time to make that decision as Rouse acclimatizes to the Canadian game. He has a lot to learn before he's ready. When he is, though, what kind of impact does he think he can make? Once again, Rouse summed up his plan most succinctly.

"It'll speak for itself," he said.

melissa.martin@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 6, 2013 0

History

Updated on Friday, September 6, 2013 at 9:23 AM CDT: Replaces photo

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