They don't hand out merit badges in the Canadian Football League, but if they did, Alex Suber would be eligible for a couple.
The first, featuring a depiction of a mushroom cloud, would be awarded for surviving the disaster that was the Winnipeg Blue Bombers' 2013 campaign. The second, a badge featuring the Bombers logo, would be handed to Suber for his loyalty to the organization that brought him north to Canada -- an association that will continue now the diminutive defensive back has signed a new contract Monday rather than test free agency.
"It was a no-brainer," Suber said from his off-season home in Tampa. "I love the city there, I have a good relationship with a lot of people that are still in the organization... It was just an easy decision for me."
Suber was one of the few steady constants in a season in which the Bombers finished dead last at 3-15 and fired the GM, CEO, offensive co-ordinator and head coach. But with those changes comes hope, and Suber sees promise in a new regime that features Wade Miller at the top, Kyle Walters in the GM chair and rookie head coach Mike O'Shea.
"It's exciting. I know Wade came in and he had a vision of what he wanted to do," Suber said. "He's gone his own way despite what outsiders think, and I enjoy that. I like that. I'm pretty excited about where we're going.
"I'm excited just for a new start and just to see where things are going to bring some kind of tradition back to the team. The guys are excited about something new."
Generously listed at 5-7, Suber will be entering his fifth CFL season in 2014, all with the Bombers. He started 18 games at halfback in 2013, finishing fifth on the club with 54 tackles, tied for the team lead with two interceptions, and adding one fumble recovery and six special-teams tackles.
Despite the obvious physical mismatch with taller receivers, Suber has carved out a solid career with his quickness and tenacity. He opted to return to Winnipeg because of his comfort level with the city and the organization, but also because 2013 can serve as a powerful motivator going forward.
"I'm a guy that's always motivated, regardless," Suber said. "But definitely when you have a down season, you're hungry to get back because your season ended earlier than other guys and you want to build on things from last year.
"Some of the younger guys have gained a year of experience, even within losses, and that will help us. Everybody will be motivated and hungry for the season."
In addition to Suber, the Bombers have re-signed offensive lineman Steve Morley, punter Mike Renaud and fullback Michel-Pierre Pontbriand this winter -- all of whom were headed to free agency.
The Bombers still have 17 players who would be eligible to sign elsewhere on Feb. 15, and are continuing negotiations with a few of them. Still unsigned are: linebacker Henoc Muamba; offensive linemen Andre Douglas, Chris Kowalczuk, Marc Parenteau and Justin Sorensen; defensive backs Jovon Johnson, Brandon Stewart and Dan West; receivers Jade Etienne, Akeem Foster and Chris Matthews; running backs Will Ford and Chad Simpson; defensive linemen JT Gilmore, Ryan Lucas, Kenny Mainor and long snapper Chris Cvetkovic.
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