With the aches and pains of last Thursday's game fading into memory, Chad Simpson took the field on Monday to run through his reps.
The Blue Bombers running back had taken a rest day on Sunday, along with some of the team's other big guns, but on Canada Day he looked loose, he was laughing -- and he was gunning to run.
He has to be. Last week, when the Bombers dropped their emotional Investors Group Field season debut against the Montreal Alouettes, Simpson's numbers were one of the wounds coaches prodded in the post-mortem of the loss: the 5-9 sparkplug ran for just 35 yards on nine carries, and added 18 more with a few receptions.
"It wasn't up to where I felt it should be," Simpson said after practice Monday, adding bluntly: "I didn't help my team win."
Simpson is brighter than that, better than that. Only problem: the opponent always knows it. Montreal came into last Thursday's match looking to silence the Bombers' star back, and they did. Now, with a rematch against the Alouettes looming on Thursday, Simpson, his coaches and his team are looking for a way to get him unleashed.
"Anytime you can get the ball in the hands of somebody who is a special player, he's got a chance to break the game open for you," Bombers coach Tim Burke said on Monday, after putting his players through their paces. "We have to get him the ball more often than he touched it the other night."
The heart part of the equation won't be a problem. Offensive lineman Glenn January praised Simpson's "motivation," calling him a back who runs for himself, and for his team, and not because he's afraid of what anyone else might think. Simpson said he plans to go into Montreal the same way he has every game since he was a child clutching a big ol' ball: ready to push for every yard, every gain.
Of course, it gets a little more technical than that, though naturally Burke and the Bombers aren't planning on giving their secrets away. Here's what Burke would say: the boys in blue have been crunching tape to dissect how Montreal was able to throw up fronts that kept Simpson cold, and they're working on some new ways to get him the ball.
"We have to go in with a solid game plan," January said. "You can have perfect technique, but if you call a play into a bad defensive front, you're hooped. Obviously, (Thursday's running game) was a disappointment. We just gotta do a better job -- and if we do what we're supposed to do, we should be successful."
The Alouettes, though, will likely be making changes too, trying to stay a step ahead of the Bombers' adjustments. Still, Burke said that going into last Thursday's game, the Bombers weren't certain what the Alouettes' strategy would be. Now, with some insight, his team aims to respond. "Now we know what their plan was," Burke said. "Now everybody's real familiar with each other. Consequently, now we have the chalk last... hopefully."