THE Winnipeg Blue Bombers have more to be concerned about than a two-game losing streak and pockets of doubt.
The club lost starting middle linebacker Joe Lobendahn -- a two-time defensive player of the week this season -- to a right knee injury early in the second quarter of Saskatchewan's 45-23 decisive win in the 8th annual Banjo Bowl Sunday afternoon.
The fourth-year player, who has already missed time this season with an ankle injury, could be on the shelf for an extended period. He couldn't put any weight on his leg once the medical staff looked at him on the field (he was hurt on a special teams play) and needed to be carted off to the locker-room before the half.
In the sombre Bombers space after the game, the feeling on Lobendahn wasn't good.
"Man, that really hurt," strong-side linebacker Clint Kent said. "I hope he's OK. Joe is the quarterback of our defence, without question. He's smart and he's a playmaker. We're going to have to look at what we have, groom some guys, and go from there. It's not good."
The man who filled Lobendahn's spot Sunday was non-import Pierre-Luc Labbe, who typically only comes in on a handful of defensive packages. The trusted special teams captain who plays on four different units, Labbe was forced to pull double-duty for some of game, a task that was reminiscent of old school ironman football where players would play both offence and defence.
In the CFL, special teams gets just as much time on the field, it seems, so Labbe was busy.
"He did his thing, like he always does when he comes in there," weak-side linebacker Marcellus Bowman said. "He's got a lot of responsibility. I'd be dog-tired if I was him. I commend him for what he did...he's going to have to step it up even more right now."
Labbe, 27, looked like he ran a marathon after the game.
"I'm glad that after every practice, I've been running with Joe-Lo, just to make sure my conditioning remains high," said Labbe. "To be honest, I was dying at the end of the first half. First of all -- I'm not used to it and second, it's a lot of playing time."
The Bombers did make an adjustment after the break, switching in others to take Labbe's spot on some special teams. Regardless of the second-half reprieve, however, Labbe wasn't happy with his play on the Bombers return team. He shook his head in disbelief as he explained how he thought he had good position on a Riders player when returner Tim Brown broke a big run in the first half.
It was his first penalty on special teams this year.
"I'm not looking forward to film (today)," he added. "I'm sure no one in this room is."
Labbe, who suffered a dislocated right pinky finger in the contest, finished the game with five tackles.
More information on Lobendahn's knee is expected today. Looking ahead to a first-place battle with the Montreal Alouettes (6-4) Sunday, Winnipeg (7-3) has a few extra linebackers on the roster, a list that includes Merrill Johnson, Henoc Muamba, and Dustin Doe.
Other Bombers who suffered varying degrees of bumps and bruises Sunday were quarterback Buck Pierce, defensive back Jonathan Hefney and receiver Cory Watson.
BAD DREAM: Bombers defensive tackle Doug Brown on how Sunday's defeat felt a lot like the 2009 Banjo Bowl: "It's your biggest regular season home game... it's your rivalry game... we (bleeped) the bed... inexcusable." The Riders put a 55-10 pounding on the Blue and Gold that season.