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Wide receiver Derick Armstrong wants to show Bombers they made a mistake

The date is already circled in red on Derick Armstrong's calendar.

SURREY, B.C. - The date is already circled in red on Derick Armstrong's calendar.

Saturday, Oct. 2.

It's the day the Winnipeg Blue Bombers come to Vancouver to play the B.C. Lions. It's the day Armstrong hopes for a little revenge.

''I have them marked on my calendar,'' Armstrong said in a soft voice Thursday after the Lions practice. ''It's going to be one of those things to show them they gave up too soon.''

Listen to him talk, watch him on the field, and the 31-year-old wide receiver from Jasper, Tex., doesn't strike you as a troublemaker. But the six-year CFL veteran was released by the Bombers after just one game last year after getting into a dispute with coach Mike Kelly.

An angry Armstrong refused to play against the Edmonton Eskimos in Winnipeg's season-opening loss after being relegated to backup status behind rookie Adarius Bowman.

Armstrong, a two-time CFL all-star, didn't get into details but called the incident ''a frustrating thing that happened.''

He remains angry with the Bomber organization, even though Kelly was fired in the off-season. The dismissal came just hours after Kelly was arrested and charged with assault following a domestic dispute at his home near Philadelphia.

''I don't think they stood up for me the way they should have,'' said Armstrong, who had a pair of 1,000-yard seasons with the Bombers. ''It was one of those things that happened. I've moved on. I'm happy I moved on. I'm with a great organization. Guys have been great to me.''

Sometimes an athlete, fairly or not, gets tainted by a situation. It can be hard to find work if there are questions about your character.

''You don't want that type of label,'' said Armstrong, who had a 50-yard touchdown catch in the Bombers' 2007 Grey Cup loss to the Saskatchewan Roughriders. ''I know what type of person I am.

''I'm a guy who loves being around my teammates.''

Wally Buono, the Lions coach and general manager, said he had no worries about Armstrong's character when signing him as a free agent.

''I don't believe it was a character issue,'' said Buono. ''I think it might have been a personality conflict with a coach. Usually the player doesn't win in those.

''From my investigation, and from my acquaintance with him, I never thought him to be an issue. In training camp he's been very pleasant. I know the guys in the locker room look up to him and respect him.''

Veteran slotback Geroy Simon said Armstrong was given a clean slate the moment he pulled on a B.C. jersey.

''When a guy comes from a situation, whether it was good or bad, we don't judge,'' said Simon. ''We let a guy come in, bring his personality, and you feel him out from there.

''More times than not, guys that have a bad rep, they are totally different than what that rep is. From day one he's been a great guy in the locker room, on the field.''

While Armstrong has gained acceptance he still has to prove himself.

The six-foot-two, 215-pound product of Arkansas-Monticello is still hobbled by a 2008 knee injury. He admits to some concerns coming to camp this spring after missing a year.

''There were question marks,'' he said. "There was a little rust out there.

''Now I am more confident in myself and I'm confident in my knee.''

Buono is willing to be patient but also wants a return on his investment. Armstrong had one catch for 51 yards in the one exhibition game he played.

''Right now I'm not sure we have seen the best of Derick Armstrong,'' said Buono. ''We definitely have to see that improvement.

''You've got to see the guy that has some jump in his step, that can get away from defensive backs and make big plays for us. At this point I know he's getting more comfortable with the system. I think physically he's feeling better.''

Armstrong broke into the CFL in 2001 with Saskatchewan. In two years he had 100 receptions for 1,540 yards and six touchdowns. He was named a West all-star in 2002.

He moved to the NFL's Houston Texans in 2003. In three years he caught 45 passes for 605 yards and two touchdowns. He returned to the CFL in 2007 and put together back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons for Winnipeg.

After being cut by the Bombers last season, Armstrong had a tryout with the Toronto Argonauts but failed the physical.

''That was one of those things they said,'' said Armstrong. ''I thought I did very well in the work out. It was just their opinion.''

Armstrong is happy the Lions have given him a chance to play football again. He knows what is expected of him.

''(What) I have to do is go out and do my job,'' he said. ''That's make plays like I have done in the past.''

 
 
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