This much is clear. Whatever transpired between Geroy Simon and the B.C. Lions over the last 18 months — and that includes being traded away after 12 years of meritorious service and a failed attempt to bring him back as a player this year — the relationship between Simon and the club is still intact.
It may have been tested. It may have frayed. But it’s not broken and if things change, Simon could return to where he belongs.
“I’ve got a great relationship with (GM) Wally (Buono) and (president) Dennis (Skulsky),” Simon said. “Whatever happened was business but we’ve maintained a strong relationship.”
“Let’s see what the future holds,” said Skulsky. “If the desire is there and he continues to live in this community, he’ll be associated with the Lions one way or the other. That could be as a member of the alumni or something else.”
So keep that in mind.
But whatever happens in the future, there’s still something awkward about this week’s Geroy-fest and Friday night’s ceremony which will induct him into the Lions’ Ring of Honour.
Simon might be the greatest Lion of them all. For the better part of a dozen years he was the face of the franchise and represented himself and the organization in an exemplary manner. But on Friday, he will be honoured while he’s being employed by the Saskatchewan Roughriders, the team where he was dispatched after all those glorious seasons with the Lions.
Everyone, of course, was saying and doing all the right things in the run-up to Friday’s ceremony, and that’s what you’d expect. But there’s also something about all of this that doesn’t feel right for either Simon or the Lions.
“I can’t go on speculation,” Simon said when asked if he was approached by the Lions this offseason about a job with the team. “I can’t go on anything but the facts, and the fact is the Roughriders offered me a job right away.
“They didn’t have a position. They basically made a position for me. I thought that was cool.”
Yet, when confronted with the same option, the Lions decided not to create a position for this player who’d meant so much to the team and this market.
Maybe that will change. Maybe, in time, Simon will be repatriated to the Lions. But, until then, all we have are the facts and those facts create terrible optics for the team.
Simon’s divorce from the Lions prior to the 2013 season has already been scrutinized to an unhealthy degree and needs no further analysis here. Following the 2012 season, Buono made the determination that Simon’s days as a feature receiver were over, which was a view the great receiver didn’t share. In short order, he was traded away to Saskatchewan, where the Roughriders won the Grey Cup last season and Simon could be seen catching a pair of touchdown passes in the championship game.
He then retired this off-season, but not before further intrigue with the Lions.
This offseason there was a concerted effort by the club to bring Simon back as a receiver/mentor for one final year and, shortly before the CFL draft, it seemed a contract would be signed. But that was also about the time concerns arose over the health of quarterback Travis Lulay, a situation that led to the Lions trading for Kevin Glenn. With considerable money now tied up in their quarterback position, the notion of bringing back Simon lost its appeal and that plan was abandoned.
As for a Plan B with the Lions, that never materialized. The Roughriders, meanwhile, offered Simon a front-office position that includes advance and NFL scouting duties. After this season, Riders president Jim Hopson is also set to retire, which will lead to a restructuring of the team’s front office.
“The Riders understand I want to stay in football, not necessarily as a coach,” Simon said. “They’ve been great. They’ve given me a lot of freedom.”
More to the point, they’ve given him a job.
Simon, just so you know, also declined an invitation to sign a one-day contract so he could retire as a Lion. He was asked about that decision.
“I don’t think it looks right, being a member of the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ front office and signing a one-day contract with the Lions,” he said.
Where this goes from here is anybody’s guess. The Lions are aware of what Simon means to their team. They’re aware of the qualities he represents and his character. Those are the same qualities and character the Lions like to think are the foundation of their organization.
But there is Mr. Lion, employed by another team. He will be honoured on Friday night for his years here, and that’s how it should be.
But there was a more meaningful honour the Lions could have bestowed on Simon, one that would have reflected a truer meaning of his importance to the team and this community.
That’s the honour that would have meant more to Simon.
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