Alden Darby is a patient man.
Acquired via trade from the Toronto Argonauts when the Blue Bombers lost Mercy Maston to a season-ending torn Achilles tendon, the 29-year-old defensive back from Long Beach, Calif., is expected to make his debut in a Winnipeg uniform more than two months later.
The Bombers have been patient about getting him ready for active duty. This week, he’s been taking first team reps at the dimeback position.
If Darby starts, it’s likely Mike Jones will return to cornerback.
Darby, who played his first three CFL seasons in Toronto, hasn’t suited up for a game since Nov. 2, 2019. He’s confident that he has immersed himself in the new terminology and he’ll be well prepared to face the visiting Calgary Stampeders Sunday.
“You’ve still got to show up on game day and make plays and you know the other team gets paid as well so you always want to be sharp and be on your tools and trust your technique and trust your teammates around you and trust the plays that are called,” he said following Friday’s practice at IG Field. “Play to your leverage and play to your technique and you’ll be fine.”
Slotting in at dimeback should be no problem. In Toronto, he played all over the defence including three positions in his first career game in 2017.
“Honestly and truthfully, wherever I’m needed that at any given time, I’m ready to play that position,” said Darby. “I kind of pride myself my entire life actually… knowing every everything on the field… because you never know when somebody may may or may not go down. I’m always ready to play literally at any position at any given time.”
Darby, traded for American offensive lineman Terry Poole, says his hallmarks are his versatility and attention to detail.
“The mental part of the game is a huge part of who I am,” said Darby. “I like to know what… everybody around me is doing. I like to know their position. I’d like to know what the offence is doing and I like to know you know our strengths and weaknesses as far as coverages go.”
Head coach Mike O’Shea has been impressed with Darby’s ball-hawking abilities.
“He’s got a high football IQ and he seems to have a knack for finding the football and getting it away from an offensive player,” said O’Shea. “So you know he’s always tapping at the ball and checking their ball security.… Some guys just have a little extra gift (for) that — popping balls out.”
Darby doesn’t sound concerned about his long layoff. He expects his experience to prevail as he returns to game action.
“I think the way we practise — we practise fast, we practise game-like as much as possible,” said Darby. “And for me, I haven’t played in a while but the good thing is I have what, 50-plus games under my belt, to where you know football is football… What I found for me is the game is always slower, in my opinion, because practice is such a fast pace and you’ve got to get such a large number of plays in such little time.”
He’s also well-versed in Calgary’s ability to overcome adversity. Injured starting quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell has given way to rookie Jake Maier. Maier led the Stamps to victory last week in his first career start.
“They’ve got a plug-and-play system over there, so you’ve gotta respect them as such and you got to understand and know that that’s a good team over there and you don’t want to take them lightly no matter… who’s throwing the ball, rookie or not,” he said.
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