RB Chad Simpson continues to impress Bombers coaching staff
WINNIPEG - Chad Simpson is getting noticed and not just because he won't take off his helmet and visor during interviews.
First, there's the 26-year-old import running back's speed that impresses the coaching staff of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
There has been talk of using him as a kick returner but right now no doors are closed as players compete for jobs in training camp.
"When you're athletic and explosive like he is, it makes for a very good day," said head coach Paul LaPolice.
If that's where the Bombers see him, that's just fine with Simpson, who handled the same chore for the Indianapolis Colts of the NFL.
"I'll be returning balls for as long as I'm playing football, if I'm fortunate to win the starting job," said the Miami native, after a steamy practice Monday that likely made him feel more at home.
"I want to just be guaranteed to let me battle for that spot every year because I love to return kicks and punts."
Simpson packs 216 pounds of compact muscle onto a five-foot-nine frame and LaPolice said he isn't just fast, he also shows football smarts.
"A lot of guys have good athletic ability . . . On top of that, he doesn't make many mistakes and he asks the right questions and he knows what he's talking about.
"I had a talk with him about it and he said, 'When you play for Peyton Manning, you get yelled at a lot when (you) don't know what you're doing.'"
Simpson played with the Colts for a couple of seasons, including the 2009-10 Super Bowl, which Manning and the favoured Colts lost to the New Orleans Saints.
The Colts let Simpson go that April and although he was picked up by the Buffalo Bills and then the Washington Redskins, neither club kept him. The Bombers signed him in January.
Simpson still looks back on his Super Bowl experience with awe.
"It was the greatest experience of my life. I saw two of my favourite players and one of them actually talked to me, Emmit Smith, right before the kickoff, and told me have a good game. . .
"I saw Deion Sanders. Before the coin toss I was right in front of Jerry Rice. . . And it was in my home town, there's nothing like it and I'll remember it for the rest of my life."
If the CFL is a bit of an anticlimax, Simpson is far too professional or polite to let it show.
"Whatever opportunity I get I'm going to be happy with. Whether I stay here and play for 12 years or go back to the NFL, I mean I just want to play football."
While he says he's still getting used to the Canadian game, one thing Simpson said he likes about it is the wider field.
"You got that long corner, a guy can't just take an angle, he really has to run after you, he really has to be fast."
Lastly, there is that helmet and visor thing.
He declined a request from a local TV crew to remove it and explained it as a one-time tribute to another of his heroes, former NFL running back Ricky Williams.
Williams played the 2006 season with the CFL's Toronto Argonauts when under suspension south of the border. He was known for doing interviews with helmet and full tinted visor.
"That's my favourite running back, just paying him respect. He was here and I grew up watching him and I just wanted to do that for him, one time."