Blue Bomber Report Record: 6–10–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Sam I am: Hefney would rather be a halfback

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He is a team player and he says he will, of course, play any position the Winnipeg Blue Bombers coaches tell him to play.

But Jonathan Hefney also made clear on Sunday that he doesn't want to play the linebacker position where the team had him practise Sunday and he thinks he will be significantly less helpful to his team at that spot than at his customary position at halfback in the vaunted Bombers secondary.

"I will play the position because, I mean, that's my job and that's where I'm told to go. But at the same time, I know where I want to be and I know how I will play. And I know I can help my team 100 per cent more as a halfback than SAM (strong-side linebacker)," Hefney said following practice.

"I prefer to play halfback. I came in as a halfback. I got all my all-pros and all-CFLs as a halfback. It's something that I always wanted to do once I got the position... It takes a lot for me to give up my position like that. I feel like I have to get beat out to lose my spot."

The move, of course, has nothing to do with Hefney's abilities as a defensive back -- where he is universally regarded around the league as one of the elite at the position -- and everything to do with the fallout from the Bombers' decision last week to cut Clint Kent, the man who used to hold the SAM position.

The Bombers practised on Sunday for the first time since releasing Kent and had Hefney taking the majority of first-team reps at the position, with help from fellow halfback Brandon Stewart. The club used backup DB Johnny Sears to fill the vacancies created at halfback.

The Bombers believe they are faster and will have much better pass coverage with Hefney in place of Kent -- or Stewart, presumably -- at the SAM position. Advised of Hefney's comments to the media, Bombers head coach Paul LaPolice seemed to suggest the club will not be debating the wisdom of the move with Hefney.

"I think we have some of the best coaches in the CFL and the best defensive co-ordinator in the CFL," said LaPolice. "I think the players just have to put their trust in those people and we'll see how it shakes out."

Hefney said he hasn't been told of any final decision on the matter and he's still hoping the club might slot someone else -- Stewart, in other words -- in the spot instead of him prior to Friday's regular-season opener in Vancouver against the B.C. Lions.

"I'm just out here working hard," said Hefney, "and we'll see what goes on."

LaPolice said the club intends to use both Hefney and Stewart in the SAM role.

It would be a bold move by LaPolice to move Hefney out of a position where he won CFL all-star awards last year and in 2009, but the coach explained his thinking on the SAM job this way:

"It's a DB that has to play inside the box at times and be closer to the football and be able to make tackles in some of the run game. As well as cover the best receiver on the football field," said LaPolice. "It's a little different from a halfback in that you get a little more help from your free safety."

Part of Hefney's reluctance to switch positions may have something to do with the fact he is a free agent at the end of this season and will be looking to negotiate a new contract and a raise.

Hefney was second on the Bombers to league defensive MVP Jovon Johnson in interceptions last season, pulling down a career-high six. That marquee defensive statistic would surely suffer this season if Hefney moved to linebacker, where Kent had just one pick the last two seasons.

paul.wiecek@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 25, 2012 C1

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