Former Calgary Stampeder Juwan Simpson insists he has not retired from professional football just yet.
“There haven’t been any papers signed by me,” Simpson said chuckling.
The veteran linebacker was released on Jan. 4 by the Stamps, the only team he played for during his eight-year CFL career.
But when the 2016 training camp opened Thursday morning, Simpson was back on the field at McMahon Stadium, only this time as a coach. The Stampeders brought the veteran in as one of their guest coaches.
“The coaching staff, in previous years, we spoke about what I wanted to do when I’m done playing football and they knew I wanted to coach,” he said. “The opportunity presented itself and I’m like, ‘hey, I’m definitely going to jump on it.’”
As a player, and captain of the defence, Simpson was known as one of the strongest voices inside the Stampeders’ locker room – a veteran leader that commanded respect from his teammates. Simpson hopes when he’s ready, he can transfer those skills into coaching.
“Having the ear of the room, and having that respect among those guys, knowing that you’ve been through the battle with them, I think it helps a lot when it comes to actual coaching,” he said.
Simpson said he’s using the opportunity to observe and learn everything he can about coaching, but admits it will feel a little different when the veterans, and in many cases his ex-teammates, hit the field for the first time on Sunday.
The 31-year-old wants to make it clear, this guest coaching appearance doesn’t mean he’s closed the book on his playing career.
“Just because I know I can still play. But I won’t just play anywhere, I won’t just play for any amount. It has to be the right fit for me,” Simpson said. “If I’m done playing football, I’ve had eight great years here, that’s a lot more than a lot of people can say about their careers.”
Simpson is joined by other former Stampeders Edwin Harrison and Jermaine Copeland as guest coaches. The list is rounded out by veteran CFL coach George Cortez, Aaron Best and Ahmaad Smith.
The Stampeders rookie camp continues Saturday at McMahon Stadium, with the veterans hitting the field for the first time on Sunday morning. The Stamps first pre-season game is June 11 at home to the Edmonton Eskimos.