Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
NFL castoff puts charge into Bombers offence
Running with the opportunity
Football players with NFL pedigrees come to the CFL all the time and fail. Chad Simpson explains why he's going to buck the trend.
"Why would I worry about a league that I'm not in?" said Winnipeg's new running back. "I'm in Canada and this is football to me now. This is where my focus is, right here in Winnipeg. The sport here is treating me well and I'm loving it," said Simpson.
The results of Simpson's singular focus and multi-dimensional talents have been evident as he's been immediately effective, collecting 91 yards on 15 carries in his debut and then 73 yards on 14 carries in last week's win over the Edmonton Eskimos.
The Bombers enter Friday's game against the Montreal Alouettes with a 1-4 record and they didn't get competitive until Simpson entered the picture. His impact got the Bombers close in a loss against the Toronto Argonauts and pushed them over the top against Edmonton.
Winnipeg's offence resembled a car with a frozen battery until Simpson put his charge into things and got the motor turning over.
"If you have a running back that can run the ball when he gets it, that can pass protect and catch the ball, he's a three-way threat and he helps the quarterback and takes pressure off the quarterback," said Bombers offensive co-ordinator Gary Crowton. "It slows the rush down a bit because the defence knows we can run the ball and it gives the quarterback a quick option in the passing game. Chad's opened a lot of things up for us."
Bombers head coach Paul LaPolice says Simpson gives his team an explosive threat in the backfield.
"He breaks tackles. When everything is blocked right and he gets to the second level he can make guys miss," said LaPolice.
"He turns a six-yard run into a 15-yard play... We felt we could expand our offence with him."
Crowton has been around the block on the U.S. football scene and recognizes talent and polish when he sees it.
"Chad came here with NFL experience and a he's been to the Super Bowl. He has that professionalism you need... He does the little things because he works at it. A lot of guys have God-given abilities, and he has those. But he also has work ethic and that separates him from a lot of players," said Crowton. "As a runner he runs the ball hard and is physical and makes yardage after contact. We needed a physical presence and he brought that to our offence."
Winnipeg's offensive line has been under fire all season for its lack of experience and inability to protect the quarterback. But Simpson and his success running the ball has given the burly boys a crevice to dig into and establish a toehold.
"Chad has rewarded the offensive line. When they've blocked hard he's gotten yardage. It's like getting a paycheque at the end of the week. If there's no success, the linemen feel it. When there is success, it's contagious and the linemen feel that," said Crowton.
Simpson says playing physical is key to his game and it will result in that elusive 100-yard game sooner or later.
"I grew up playing offensive line and defensive line so I'm used to the contact. I helps me relax and get into the game when I get hit," said the 27-year-old. "It'll come. There are a billion games up here. Eighteen games, if I can't get a hundred yards in at least a couple of them something is wrong."
Life wasn't easy as a child for Simpson but he says his mother, Mary, made sure there were no excuses and that he kept his dreams alive.
"I grew up in Liberty City in Miami and it was a rough neighbourhood. We played football on the street before our little league games and then again after. The college guys at Miami were our heroes," he said. "My mom raised me but she raised a man. When I got cut, she'd just look at me and say 'walk it off.' I work hard and I play hard. That comes from my mom. I lost my dad when I was just ten. But she didn't baby me. She told me I could do anything. She said don't worry about where we are now, because we won't be here forever. She never missed a game and she risked losing her job to be there for me."
The NFL or the CFL, it doesn't matter to Simpson in terms of what he's trying to accomplish.
"I'm just trying to be a great football player. period. I'm 27 and I know I probably only have until I'm 32," said Simpson. "I just need to try to be the best I can be. No one remembers unless you are the greatest and that's what I'm trying to do."
email@example.com Twitter: @garylawless
Bruising running back
Bombers running back Chad Simpson has popped onto the football scene in Winnipeg with his bruising running style. Here's the 411 on Simpson:
THE STATS: Wears No. 5, listed at 5-9 and 205 lbs. In two games with Winnipeg he's collected 164 yards on 29 carries.
THE RESUMé: Played his college football at Morgan State in south Florida where he set the school's single season rushing record in his senior year with 1,402 yards. Moved to the NFL and spent time with three NFL clubs, Buffalo, Indianapolis and Washington. Played in the Super Bowl with Indianapolis in 2009.
THE QUOTE: "My mom raised me but she raised a man. When I got cut, she'd just look at me. I work hard and I play hard. That comes from my mom. I lost my dad when I was just 10. But she didn't baby me. She told me I could do anything."
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 2, 2012 C1
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About Gary Lawless
Gary Lawless is the Free Press sports columnist and co-host of the Hustler and Lawless show on TSN 1290 Winnipeg and www.winnipegfreepress.com
Lawless began covering sports as a rookie reporter at The Chronicle-Journal in Thunder Bay after graduating from journalism school at Durham College in Ontario.
After a Grey Cup winning stint with the Toronto Argonauts in the communications department, Lawless returned to Thunder Bay as sports editor.
In 1999 he joined the Free Press and after working on the night sports desk moved back into the field where he covered pro hockey, baseball and football beats prior to being named columnist.
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