Bombers running charm offence to lure Muamba back, upgrade defence

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Henoc Muamba is taking his second CFL tour since returning from the NFL in 2015, and his most recent stop is Winnipeg.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 26/02/2018 (1680 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Henoc Muamba is taking his second CFL tour since returning from the NFL in 2015, and his most recent stop is Winnipeg.

The Blue Bombers are hosting the non-import linebacker for a brief spell; the 28-year-old Muamba arrived in the city late Sunday and is leaving Tuesday morning. What the Bombers hope is he will return for training camp in May with his name signed to a contract for the 2018 season.

In order to achieve that goal, the Bombers are showing Muamba how much the organization has evolved. Muamba was the Blue Bombers’ first overall pick in the 2011 CFL Draft. He spent three seasons in Winnipeg, where in his his final year, in 2013, he earned multiple team awards, including most outstanding player, most outstanding defensive player and most outstanding Canadian.

Liam Richards / The Canadian Press The Winnipeg Blue Bombers are working hard to get Henoc Muamba — who left the CFL to join the Indianapolis Colts and returned to play with the Montreal Alouettes and the Saskatchewan Roughriders — back in Blue and Gold.

But as good as Muamba was, the Bombers were just as bad, finishing the 2013 season dead last in the East Division, with a record of 3-15. In the three years Muamba was in Winnipeg, the Bombers went 19-35, which left a sour taste in his mouth.

Things have changed, and the club wants to make that clear to Muamba.

With a new leadership group now in place, Winnipeg has gone 23-13 over the past two seasons, finishing last year with the second-best record (12-6) in the CFL in a tough West Division. They’ve also added a number of players in recent weeks, and look to be an improved outfit heading into the 2018 campaign.

What makes Muamba such an important piece to the Bombers’ puzzle — and why they are going to such lengths to acquire him – is that he would not only improve what has, for years, been a struggling defence, but also fill a spot at a middle linebacker position that has underperformed for just as long. The fact he’s Canadian makes him all the more valuable, giving Winnipeg added flexibility with the ratio.

In an attempt to woo Muamba, the Bombers are taking him out on the city, including a dinner at Hy’s with general manger Kyle Walters and Darren Cameron, the Bombers senior director of public and player relations. He is also said to be meeting Tuesday with Walters, head coach Mike O’Shea and team president and CEO Wade Miller. Other plans include showing him around some of the improved facilities at Investors Group Field and re-acquainting him with other members of the Bombers support staff.

What might have some fans scratching their head at this is the fact it’s the second time Muamba has hit the road, shopping for a new job. When he returned after a year with the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts in 2015, he travelled to every CFL club before settling with the Montreal Alouettes — a roadshow that had many feeling distaste for his antics. To his critics, they had felt he was overplaying his value and that he chose Montreal based simply on the club making the highest bid.

He played just four games for the Alouettes that season and his performance was average, at best, perhaps due to the added weight he put on in order to bulk up for the NFL. To add insult to injury, he was released in the winter prior to receiving a $55,000 bonus.

This time around, however, Winnipeg is one of just two locations Muamba is said to be scouting. He visited the Alouettes — who, like Winnipeg, are also under a new management regime (though Montreal still has the same owner in Robert Wetenhall) — last week and they gave him a similar sales pitch. But unlike the Bombers, the Alouettes are coming off another dismal season (3-15) and are currently in a heavy rebuild.

While the optics might rub some the wrong way, Muamba entitled to test the market. He’s a premier Canadian player, playing a position coveted by every team across the league. Both the Bombers and Alouettes could use him.

It helps that Muamba is coming off his best season in the CFL since he last played for the Bombers. As a member of the Saskatchewan Roughriders, he finished the 2017 season with 82 tackles in 17 games and was named the team’s top Canadian.

One possible hitch: sources say he is dealing with knee issues. But others close to the player, some of who worked closely with him last season, say there is nothing to worry about at this stage.

jeff.hamilton@freepress.mb.ca

twitter: @jeffkhamilton

Jeff Hamilton

Jeff Hamilton
Multimedia producer

After a slew of injuries playing hockey that included breaks to the wrist, arm, and collar bone; a tear of the medial collateral ligament in both knees; as well as a collapsed lung, Jeff figured it was a good idea to take his interest in sports off the ice and in to the classroom.

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