- Mike Wells, ESPN Staff Writer
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ANDERSON, Ind. -- Linebacker Bjoern Werner was a focus for the Indianapolis Colts in the preseason opener against the New York Jets because he’ll be starting while Robert Mathis serves his four-game suspension to start the season.
But another linebacker grabbed the spotlight.
Rookie Henoc Muamba took advantage of injuries at the interior part of the linebacker group to lead the Colts in tackles with 11.
“With Henoc, what happened was he had to play a decent amount because of [Kelvin Sheppard’s] injury,” Colts defensive coordinator Greg Manusky said. “He did a good job, he had a decent amount of tackles. He’s still going through that growing process of going from a Canadian league, coming down here and going through that."
Muamba is a rookie when it comes to playing in the NFL, but not a rookie when it comes to football. He spent three seasons playing with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League. And just like he showed against the Jets, Muamba was a tackling machine in the CFL.
He had 171 tackles, four sacks and an interception during his three seasons with the Blue Bombers.
Plucking a player from the CFL isn’t a new thing for Colts general manager Ryan Grigson. He signed middle linebacker Jerrell Freeman from the CFL in 2012. Freeman has led the Colts in tackles in each of the past two seasons.
NFL or CFL, it doesn’t matter for Muamba.
“I consider myself a pretty confident guy in terms of the skills that I have and the God-given talent that he’s given me,” Muamba said. “It’s just a matter of hard work. Since I came here, it’s such a difference with Canadian football, and that’s what I know. I’ve played that all my life. So I can definitely see the difference. I’ve made so many strides coming from the first day of OTAs and having to read a different offense the way I have to now. It’s huge. So I really like the way things are going right now. I’m actually really excited to continue to learn more.”
The biggest difference between the NFL and CFL for Muamba is that teams don’t use tight ends as much in the CFL.
Muamba is competing with Sheppard and Josh McNary for backup snaps at middle linebacker.
“Here, the focal point is the tight end,” he said. “The strength of the field and looking at the backfield, there’s a lot more fullbacks here. In Canadian football, it’s more of a spread offense, and that was a huge adjustment to me. I’m still making the adjustment, but I like where I’m going right now.”