Blue Bomber Report Record: 3–15–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Is Simpson the real deal?

Running back might have the talent to stick around a while

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Newspaper reporter. Mail carrier. Campaign strategist for Mitt Romney. And import running back in the CFL.

What are occupations with lousy job security, Alex.

The days when a CFL team -- or an NFL team, for that matter -- would have the same starting tailback year after year after year have mostly come and gone in an age when the position is increasingly regarded by general managers burdened by a salary cap as one of the easiest places on the football field to cut salary costs with minimal impact.

In a game driven by supply and demand, the cold hard reality is that there is just way more supply of fast and nimble runners capable of finding a hole then there are professional tailback jobs to fill. And so unless you are other-worldly -- or, in the CFL, a non-import -- you are easily dispensable as a running back at the first sign of injury or age or rising salary demand.

All of which brings us to Chad Simpson. In case you missed it, Simpson (27, 5-9, 205) is the newest saviour of the Bombers' running game after a 134-yard explosion last Friday in a 34-12 victory over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

Simpson's rushing output was not only the best performance by a Bombers running back since Chris Garrett shredded the same Ticats franchise for 190 yards in last year's East Final, it was also the only 100-yards plus performance of any kind by a Bombers running back since that East Final.

So? Is Simpson finally the man that is going to provide this team some stability in the backfield after a year that has already seen the Bombers running game chew up and spit out Garrett (season-ending achilles injury in training camp) and Bloi-Dei Dorzon (big heart, low output)?

Offensive tackle Glenn January, who has made holes in the CFL for the likes of Wes Cates in Saskatchewan, Robert Edwards (Terrence's brother) in Toronto and former CFL leading rusher Fred Reid in Winnipeg, says Simpson is a cut above all of them. "He's got more physical tools. He's a specimen," says January. "He's got that extra gear whenever he gets out there.

"He's obviously got the pedigree. He's been to the NFL and done that stuff down south and it shows. We're going to have to lean heavily on him."

And not just on the field. While those around him have been losing their heads in this calamitous 2012 season, Simpson has been a calming and steadying influence in a Bombers locker-room that was desperate for some leadership. "He's been a breath of fresh air," says January. "He's humble."

A nagging foot injury cost him the first three regular-season games this season and continues to dog him even now. Still, he's averaged 6.0 yards per carry and is fourth in the CFL in rushing yards with 682 and eighth in yards from scrimmage with 939.

Simpson says he'd love to get another chance at the NFL, but would also happily return to Winnipeg next season if an NFL opportunity doesn't arise.

We've grown on him, it sounds like. "This city's great," said Simpson. "I mean, not to take anything away from American fans, but these fans are way better. We were losing all those games, but they still stuck by us. That just does your soul real good."

paul.wiecek@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 28, 2012 C3

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