Blue Bomber Report Record: 6–3–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

The best of the worst

Last-place Blue have legitimate award contenders

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Winnipeg Blue Bombers running back Chad Simpson is the very best of a bad lot.

Simpson -- who rushed for 1,039 yards and five TDs in just 14 games this season -- was announced Wednesday morning as Winnipeg's nominee for Most Outstanding Player in 2012.

The former NFLer missed the first three games of the season with a foot injury and will miss the last game with an injury too. But in between those two bookends, Simpson was the very best part of a Bombers team that struggled to a 5-12 record and last weekend became the first team to be eliminated from the CFL playoffs.

While Simpson lamented his team's record, he said the individual acknowledgment of his play was particularly satisfying after a three-year journeyman career in the NFL that never yielded the marquee tailback job he was seeking and ultimately ended with him taking all of the 2011 season off when he couldn't find work.

"It means a lot to me. I've been trying to show the world for a while what I could do if I was ever a starting (running) back. I'd always missed that opportunity for some reason. The NFL is a hard place. But Winnipeg gave me a shot and I'm very grateful for it," Simpson said.

As hard as things got, Simpson said he never considered giving up on his football dream, likening his "never quit" attitude to Bombers quarterback Buck Pierce.

"I've been doing this all my life. I probably got the spirit of Buck. I'm going to just keep coming. I'm going to play this thing however long I can. Me and Buck have the same spirit."

Winnipeg's other nominees for the 2012 Gibson's Finest CFL Player Awards were receiver Chris Matthews (75 receptions, 1,137 yards, seven TDs) as the top rookie; kicker Justin Palardy (FG's -- 36-of-41) as the most outstanding special teams player; middle linebacker Henoc Muamba (55 tackles, two sacks, five forced fumbles) as the most outstanding Canadian; tackle Glenn January as the team's most outstanding offensive lineman; and defensive end Alex Hall (nine sacks) as the club's top defensive player.

The Bombers nominees will now go up against their fellow nominees in the East Division in another round of balloting. The winners of that round will then go up against the West Division winners in a final round of balloting, with the league winners to be announced late next month in Toronto during Grey Cup Week.

Matthews has perhaps the best chance of any Bombers nominee to take down a league award. "I'd be surprised if he doesn't win rookie of the year in the league," said Bombers head coach Tim Burke.

"I've made some of my personal goals," said Matthews, "and I've got one more game. Hopefully, I can make the rest of them."

The Bombers made the announcement of their outstanding player nominees just as the team took the field Wednesday morning for practice in advance of this Saturday's final game at Canad Inns Stadium between the Bombers and the Montreal Alouettes, the final regular-season game of the year for both teams and the final game of any kind for the Bombers in 2012.

"If I was given the option of not winning this award and making the playoffs," mused January, "I'd definitely take a playoff team over this."

Still, January said he was humbled to receive an honour that has gone to some of the all-time Bombers greats over the years. "When I first got to Winnipeg, I went back and looked at all the players that have been honoured with this award in the past -- the (Chris) Walbys, the (Miles) Gorrells and the Lyle Bauers of the world. To think my name is going to be on that list with those guys is pretty special."

FIELD NOTES -- Burke said defensive tackle Bryant Turner has been ruled out to play against Montreal. Turner has been nursing a leg injury and was listed as questionable earlier this week... The Bombers will hold their final ever full practice at Canad Inns Stadium on Thursday.

paul.wiecek@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 1, 2012 D3

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