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Linebackers old before their time

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SO remember in training camp last month when the biggest question mark about the Bombers linebackers this season was whether Canadians Henoc Muamba and Pierre-Luc Labbe were up to the task of playing up the middle?

Seems almost quaint now, doesn't it, given Labbe and Muamba have been the steadiest performers among a linebacker corps that has been beset by injuries since before the season even started.

Weak-side linebacker Marcellus Bowman, of course, went down early in training camp, has yet to play and is still only now beginning to take meaningful reps in practice. Strong-side linebacker Brandon Stewart, meantime, will miss his second straight game this Thursday against Edmonton and there have been suggestions he might miss yet more.

And then there's Bowman's replacement on the weak side, Dustin Doe, who hurt himself last week against Toronto and then again in practise on Sunday. Doe did not take part in practice on Monday, but is expected back today.

Put it all together and Labbe says his head spins when he considers how much things have changed in such a short period of time for him and Muamba. "It's crazy right now how we've gone from unproven to veterans that (help) lead the team," Labbe smiled. "We're just so young among that (linebackers) bunch. I'm the oldest guy and I'm only 28 years old."

And they may get younger still. While the Bombers coaching staff is still hopeful Doe will play against Edmonton, they gave Muamba some first-team reps at weak-side linebacker in practice on Monday, suggesting he might be in the running with import Terrell Parker for a chance to start if Doe cannot go.

That would potentially give the Bombers a linebacking crew of two non-imports in Muamba and Labbe alongside SAM Jonathan Hefney on Thursday night.

Muamba, who played weak-side linebacker in a standout university career, says he'd welcome the chance to capture another starting linebacker job for the non-imports. "It's a possibility depending on injuries and some other things," Muamba said. "But if it does happen, my job is to prepare myself to step in and help the team."

FIELD NOTES: Bombers head coach Paul LaPolice on Monday ruled out OT Andre Douglas and Bowman for Thursday's game. They join DB Alex Suber, S Ian Logan, Stewart and DT Brandon Collier who are all also out... RB Chad Simpson and DT Bryant Turner both returned to the practice field after missing Sunday, but Simpson didn't take first-team reps... Receivers Chris Matthews and Kito Poblah had maintenance days on Monday but will be back at practice on Tuesday... SB Terrence Edwards and Doe are also expected to return to practice on Tuesday... LaPolice said the diagnosis on Collier's shoulder was more optimistic than expected, but he will still be out a few weeks. Non-import Jake Thomas or newcomer J.T. Gilmore will get the start in Collier's place, LaPolice added.

paul.wiecek@freepress.mb.ca

Got an hour?

"How would you like that to go?"

--Bombers head coach Paul LaPolice with a moment of levity Monday as he pondered where to even begin to answer a reporter's request for an update on the litany of Bombers injuries right now.

Boot Gets the Boot

Injured Bombers starting quarterback Buck Pierce was on the field at Canad Inns Stadium Monday watching practice -- without the walking boot that he'd been wearing since he tore ligaments and a muscle in his left foot during a game in Edmonton July 13.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 24, 2012 D3

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