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Blue's brainy brother act

Muambas already putting their stamp on Winnipeg defence

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On the long list of things Winnipeg GM Joe Mack needs to get right this season, near the top is figuring out a way to lock down linebacker Henoc Muamba as a Blue Bomber for years to come.

Muamba, the first-overall pick in the 2011 CFL entry draft, had by any statistical measure you'd care to use a breakout season in 2012.

After winning the middle linebacker job from Pierre-Luc Labbe, Muamba went on to lead the CFL in 2012 with five forced fumbles and take down two Canadian player of the week honours.

By season's end, he led the Bombers with 20 special teams tackles, finished second in defensive tackles with 65 and added three sacks and two pass knockdowns en route to becoming Winnipeg's nominee for Most Outstanding Canadian.

What does it add up to?

Big money, apparently.

Sources say Muamba and the Bombers have had on-again, off-again talks over the course of the winter as the club seeks to sign a man they think could be the next dominant non-import presence on the Bombers defence for years to come. Think Doug Brown, but at middle linebacker instead of defensive tackle.

Muamba is in his option year in 2013 and league sources say he's asking the Bombers for the kind of money Montreal middle linebacker Shea Emry -- the East Division nominee in 2012 as top defensive player and top Canadian -- is making.

That kind of raise would be several multiples above the entry level deal -- topped up by a signing bonus and some incentives -- that Muamba signed after a protracted negotiation in 2011.

But the Bombers also have a huge extra incentive for Muamba to sign now that they have added his older brother, Cauchy, to the squad. And don't think Mack didn't realize that when he signed the elder Muamba away from the B.C. Lions during free agency this winter.

The two brothers are extremely close -- they grew up together, played university ball together at St. Francis Xavier -- and now that they are both in Winnipeg, they're living together once again.

And starting with the club's mini-camp this week at the Winnipeg Indoor Soccer Complex, they're also now playing together again -- Henoc as the team's starting middle linebacker and Cauchy as the team's starting safety.

"We (played) together at university and at high school," said Cauchy Muamba Thursday. "At the pro level, it's definitely going to be a bit different. But we're getting used to it right now and then we have training camp and the first game.

"Definitely, it's going to be new, but it's going to be fun."

"He's my brother. I've always been with him since I was born," said Henoc Muamba. "We're really close. Even when he played in B.C., we talked almost every single day. He's really my brother and having him here is something great to have.

"But like I said earlier -- it's not just him and I, the connection. You've got to get a really close connection and play together as one as a whole defence."

Bombers head coach Tim Burke is gushing in his praise of the newest Muamba and after just two days of watching them work together this week is already predicting there's going to be a buzz surrounding Winnipeg's brother act.

"The thing I liked about Cauchy was yesterday was his first day and he went out there and took charge," said Burke, noting that's exactly what the younger Muamba was doing, too. "So you've got both the Muamba brothers taking charge. So, you know, it might be the Muamba defence or something. You guys will have to come up with a nifty name for it or something."

The Bash Brothers? You're welcome. (Baseball sluggers Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco surrendered that name the day it came out they used performance-enhancing drugs.)

Make no mistake, however -- this is no novelty act, although the fact they are literally wired into each other's DNA can only help during the heat of a game when each Muamba needs to instintively know where the other is.

Bombers defensive co-ordinator Casey Creehan said the best part of the brothers is they were both born with the same key physical asset -- above-average brains.

"They're both very intelligent football players. In two days, we've already noticed with Cauchy that his football smarts are just outstanding. And Henoc has also progressed in that same area," said Creehan.

"We're looking for big things out of both of them. They're going to be instrumental in what we do this season."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 26, 2013 C4

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