REGINA — It was a grimace that was worth a thousand words and definitely a few thousand dollars. It was worth every penny, too.
Brendan Taman, general manager of the Saskatchewan Roughriders, flinched momentarily when he was asked to talk about the play of Geroy Simon for his CFL team this year.
In his line of work, Taman gets to choose the players, not how they are used on the field, and Simon’s game against the B.C. Lions Saturday in the Riders’ 35-14 facewash was like most every other one of his outings with his new team: Two catches, one of which was returned for a Lions touchdown after a fumble, and 23 yards.
It is why when the Riders line up a formation with two tight ends, the 38-year-old is on the sideline with coach Corey Chamblin. But it’s past the point of being awkward. And to the general manager who took Simon off Wally Buono’s hands when assembling a roster for a Grey Cup run, the sight of the slotback high-fiving teammates in the Riders’ locker room Saturday despite his minimal contribution was complete vindication.
“I didn’t think he would come in here and light it up,” said Taman, just as honest as the day he was a Lions staffer. “I thought he would get 600-700 yards and a few touchdowns here and there. The production isn’t what I hoped it would be, but the contributions to the team have been, if that makes sense.
“He’s a great leader in his own way, even though he’s new to our team. Does he smile and do jumping jacks? No. I knew when we were paying him it wasn’t going to be based just on production.”
Equal parts of fire and reason are needed to deal with a roller-coaster existence in the CFL. Simon is not immune to the ups-and-downs, either. Quite against his nature, he turned down media requests after his token, one-catch game against the Lions at B.C. Place Stadium on Oct. 4, saying he was more embarrassed at the attention he received from his former team on a night when he did so little.
However that’s in the past, Simon said, because there might not be many games in his future. He will talk to his new teammates as needed. His old team? They just continue to slither away without him, almost totally void now of the one thing Simon can still bring.
“I was trying so hard to justify the trade,” said Simon, whose 35 catches and 491 receiving yards this season virtually will amount to a career low.
“I think the reason guys buy into what I say and do is that they see me doing things with the right attitude. When guys need to be checked, I check them. If they need to be patted on the back, I do that. I’m to the point where I don’t care; I’m going to say what needs to be said and do what needs to be done.
“I feel like I helped change the mental culture around here.”
The offseason Simon trade also forced a culture shift with the Lions, but it is clear from the series of uneven efforts on the road this year that the change has not been as successful. B.C. is 9-7 on the season but 4-6 against teams with a winning record.
Unless a significant change occurs during two mean-nothing games, the Lions will likely return to Mosaic Stadium for the Nov. 10 West Division semifinal for another thrashing, and the questions about the coaching and preparation evident during road games all season can begin for real.
Right now, the Lions would be better off ditching plans to accommodate their players and make money with their charter flight for the playoff game and just mail in an orange-and-black piñata.
“Nobody’s out there that’s not giving effort. I think there are some things we can correct and come back in the playoffs,” said receiver Nick Moore, who replaced Simon in the Lions’ lineup this season and went over the 1,000-yard mark in the scheme of offensive co-ordinator Jacques Chapdelaine on Saturday.
“If we don’t have any mental type of mental toughness after the season we’ve had, then I don’t know what you could say about us. One thing you can say is that we’ll stick together.”
Another thing that could be said is that the intangible Buono thought he could replace in his dressing room this season was doing a pretty effective job keeping things together elsewhere Saturday.
The sight of Simon with his new teammates after securing a $1 million payday with a home playoff game is worth every penny to the Riders. The only grimacing was being done by his old team.
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