Barrin Simpson (pictured above tackling Winnipeg running back Fred Reid) had a few things to get off his chest Sunday in Saskatchewan's 27-23 victory over the Blue Bombers. Last year while he was with Winnipeg, then-head coach Mike Kelly benched him, denied his trade request, told him not to be around the team and then tried to put him on the nine-game injured list against his will (which led to the league's board of governors ruling in Simpson's favour after he filed a grievance). Winnipeg let Simpson go in the offseason, and he signed with Saskatchewan after tepid interest from other teams. It looked like his days of being an impact player in the CFL might be limited at the least, if not gone altogether.
"At 32, Simpson may not get it done as quickly as he did when he won the league's top rookie award with the Lions but has demonstrated there is still value in a player who knows where to step first.
‘I'm not going to get much faster; it's not happening. But I know how to get there faster,' he said. ‘I'm not guessing.'"
Despite Simpson's experience and long history of making those who doubt him look foolish, people just keep doubting him. He wanted to come back to his old team in B.C, but was told, ‘Thanks, but no thanks'. The decision not to reacquire Simpson certainly isn't the only reason the Lions are 2-7 this year, but they have had some issues in the linebacking corps. Meanwhile, their former linebacking star has been playing a crucial role with the Roughriders.
Merely electing not to bring Simpson back isn't anywhere as dangerous as personally calling him out, though. Simpson is an ordained minister in off-field life, but he has displayed more of a taste for vengeance than mercy on the field over the years. Thus, it probably wasn't a good idea for Winnipeg running back Fred Reid (who also happens to be a former Mississippi State teammate of Simpson's) to boldly tell Kirk Penton of The Winnipeg Sun that Simpson had no chance against him:
"‘Nah, he cannot catch me. Oh no,' Reid said with a laugh. ‘He used to try to catch me in practice last year. He used to come close, but he can't catch me - unless he got a little faster this year. But I don't think so.'"
If Simpson needed any more motivation for Sunday's game, Reid may have supplied it. Simpson was a one-man wrecking crew Sunday, playing "like a man possessed" against his old team, according to The Regina Leader-Post's Murray McCormick. He recorded a team-high 10 tackles (his closest teammate was Daniel Francis, with five) according to the game stats and nine according to Penton, who wrote that the team's treatment of Simpson last year might just have cost them yesterday's game. He also recovered a fumble and was a key part of the Riders' plan to shut down Reid, who was held to just 43 rushing yards on 13 carries.
That's a statement game if there ever was one, and Simpson's clearly backing up his words with actions. The real question is why so many continue to write him off despite a preponderance of evidence suggesting he can still play. Other CFL players might do well to learn from the examples of Kelly and Reid and try to avoid riling up the Minister of Defence.