Lions release veterans Arland Bruce, Byron Parker, aim to let youth 'foster and flourish'
Arland Bruce was an integral part of the B.C. Lions' 2011 Grey Cup championship team, coming to the West Coast partway through the season. He was released by the Leos on Friday.
Photograph by: NICK PROCAYLO, PNG
VANCOUVER — Youth must be served. And so must the CFL’s limited salary cap.
B.C. Lions general manager Wally Buono said a youth movement, salary considerations and the need to rework, if not rebuild his lineup, were all factors in the release of veteran players Arland Bruce and Byron Parker, both three-time CFL all-stars.
Friday’s announcement came a day after an elaborate news conference, where quarterback Travis Lulay signed a two-year contract extension at a reported $450,000 per season. A salary dump wasn’t the only reason Bruce and Parker were let go, Buono said. But cap considerations did play into this thinking.
“That’s part of it, but it’s not the only part,” he explained. “The fact is, Courtney Taylor, Nick Moore, Ernest Jackson, Shawn Gore, Akeem Foster and Marco Iannuzzi — our younger players (receivers) need to play and have a chance to foster and flourish. I think we saw, when these guys played last year, they flourished. We feel there’s upside for these guys, and they’re only going to get better with experience and game reps.”
The shock value is that the 35-year-old Bruce is the CFL’s sixth-leading all-time receiver. And Parker holds the CFL career record with nine interception returns for touchdowns.
“Whether people are surprised or not surprised. Whether the moves were anticipated or not anticipated, we needed to make some decisions after last season,” Buono said. “We didn’t want to hurt the players more than it already does by deleting them. This clears up the picture for all of us, and we can move forward.”
Bruce joined the Lions in August, 2011 when he was acquired from the Hamilton Tiger-Cats for a third-round draft pick.
His arrival coincided with, and was integral to, a remarkable revival by the Lions from a 1-6 start to Grey Cup champions.
Last year, however, Bruce suffered a concussion in a Sept. 29 game in Regina and took weeks to recover. In his absence, younger receivers such as Taylor (28), Moore and Jackson, both 26, showed they were ready for more reps in prime time.
Bruce's departure is probably a good indication the Lions intend to keep Geroy Simon, at a reduced salary, for at least another season.
The CFL's all-time reception yards leader and highest-paid player in a non-quarterback position, the 37-year-old Simon could be used in a mentoring role, as unpalatable as that term might be for him.
Parker’s release also opens up opportunities for younger import defensive backs such as Josh Bell, who saw limited game action, and Gerard Lawson, who spent the entire season on the practice roster. Parker, like Bruce, is a former Argo who joined the Lions after Toronto decided to go with a youth movement of its own last season.
Released, then thrown a career lifeline by Lions defensive coordinator Rich Stubler, who coached him in Toronto, the 31-year-old Parker was part of the CFL’s No. 1 defence, though he was exposed in the most auspicious of circumstances — in the West Division final against the Calgary Stampeders. Stampeders backup quarterback Kevin Glenn torched the Lions secondary on the second play from scrimmage with a long touchdown throw. The Lions never recovered, went on to lose, 34-29, and ruined a 13-5 regular-season.
Later, Parker took the extraordinary step of apologizing to Lions fans on Twitter and vowing to make them proud again if given another chance.
“The 2012 B.C. Lions were built to win a championship,” Buono said. “By all intent and purposes, the skill set was there. Everything was there for that to occur. That didn’t happen. Now we’re trying to build a team for 2013. We want to get a lot younger, a lot faster, and little bit more explosive. Gerard Lawson, Josh Bell and Lin-J Shell give us the flexibility to do that. We’d like to get Lin-J into a starting role, if possible.”
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