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Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Methinks Banks did protest too much, too soon

Posted: 07/8/2014 1:00 AM | Comments: 0

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If the Korey Banks scenario that played out with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers gave you an overwhelming sense of déj vu, no need to schedule a CAT scan just yet -- a remarkably similar situation took place here only a few years prior.

Early in the 2009 season, with problems all over the football field, a new Bombers coaching staff decided they wanted to take a look at an up and coming middle linebacker named Joe Lobendahn -- at the expense of incumbent Barrin Simpson.

Barrin was turning 32 that year (Korey is 34), and while we don't know the exact way Simpson was approached with the idea of taking a lesser role, we do know he didn't respond to it very well. It was easy to see Simpson felt he was still playing at a high level, and the struggles to date of that football team had nothing to do with his performance at the middle linebacking spot.

If you play this game long enough, every starting, veteran player, will eventually be asked to take a step back in favour of another. That player always has two choices. He can agree to disagree with the coaching staff assessment, put the team first and reluctantly go along with the trial, or demand action be taken immediately to right their perceived wrong and heal their wounded pride.

In 2009, Simpson decided if the coaches wanted to take a look at someone else in his spot, he wanted to be somewhere else. Once that news became public and teams decided to wait for his release -- like they usually do -- Simpson was put in an untenable situation on the team. He was technically still on the team, but he had made it clear he didn't want to be there anymore, which is when things escalated.

In that situation, it turned out Simpson was right, though the path he chose to take was wrong. Lobendahn ended up being a game-changing middle linebacker -- whose career was cut short because his body could not endure his punishing style of play -- but he was not ready in his second year to take the reigns from Barrin.

In fact, if Simpson had not insisted action be taken, he probably would have only had to step aside for one game.

As it turned out, he ended up missing five games before cooler heads prevailed and he was reinstated with the team for the duration of the season. The next year he went off to Saskatchewan and was a division all-star for the first of two more seasons he would play before he retired.

Hindsight

The point of retelling this story is not to highlight the fact Simpson ended up being right he could still play, and the coaches were wrong about thinking his understudy was ready. The point is that, in hindsight, if he had been able to balance both pride and ego for a moment in time, it might have only been a minor hiccup in his career, instead of the $#% show it turned out to be.

Korey Banks might still prove to everyone he can play at the high level he is accustomed to. He may get another chance with another team, and show flashes of the ability that made him a four-time CFL all-star and one of the most versatile and cagey defenders in the last decade.

Yet that opportunity should have happened in Winnipeg.

The Bombers gave him a reported $60,000 to let them decide what role and where he would be best utilized. He may have lost his job to Johnny Sears for the entire season, or an injury might have thrust him back in the starting lineup before the reality of coming off of the bench had even sunk in. For if anyone -- Banks included -- thought because he wasn't going to start in Week 1 he was done playing for this football team, they clearly do not understand how dramatically rosters can change and remodel in pro football from one day to the next.

The lesson learned, is as a 34-year-old player, Banks now has one less option in front of him to play out his career, and possibly an unhelpful reputation following him around.

When athletes let their emotions and pride overwhelm them before a proper perspective kicks in, they often end up making decisions that cannot be taken back.

 

Doug Brown, once a hard-hitting defensive lineman and frequently a hard-hitting columnist, appears Tuesdays in the Free Press.

Twitter: @DougBrown97

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 8, 2014 C3

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