B.C. Lions head into off-season with question marks
Offensive lineman Angus Reid pondering retirement
Angus Reid cleaned out his locker Tuesday, wondering whether he would return for a 13th season with the B.C. Lions.
But the 36-year-old centre, who is contemplating retirement, was not the only one pondering his future in wake of B.C.'s 34-29 loss to the Calgary Stampeders in the Western Final on Sunday, when the Lions were denied a chance at a second straight Grey Cup victory.
Change is inevitable at this time of year. But as the Lions signed autographs, shook hands and departed carrying plastic bags full of their personal belongings, there was a feeling the club will make more moves than it has in recent off-seasons.
"It was a conscious decision this year to keep our team pretty much the same as the Grey Cup championship team, to hopefully repeat," said Reid. "We wanted to keep that team together for one more run. We didn't do it. Everyone now is one year older. I don't know who, what, where — but you know there'll be more change than there was last year."
Reid admitted he can't make an objective choice, so he will sit down with family members and coaches for help in determining his future. He will not base his decision just on a chance to win another Grey Cup. The decision, he said, is not about erasing a bad memory or seeking more glory.
It's about a lifestyle that includes an entire off-season of preparation, training camp and five practices per week.
"I love to do it, I really do, but it does take a lot out of me physically, psychologically, emotionally," he said. "It's all I've ever really known though."
Considering both his personal plight and the team's situation, he is struggling with figuring out when would be the right time to leave.
"It's always the hardest part for a professional athlete, to know when the time is to leave, because anyone who leaves on a high note realizes they probably still have something left in the tank. And anyone who pushes it so far past that, maybe, leaves with regret," said Reid.
"It's very hard when you're the athlete to make that decision, because any great athlete always believes they have another year in them. They always do — and if they don't there's something wrong with their confidence in themselves. Sometimes it takes an objective viewpoint."
Other changes loom on B.C.'s offensive line. Guard Jesse Newman plans to retire and will likely pursue a career as a firefighter, for which he has already taken steps. Newman, who missed 13 games in the regular season due to a knee injury that required surgery, was glad that he was able to start in the Western Final in place of injured colleague Dean Valli (knee).
However, Newman, 30, bothered by injuries in other seasons, had regrets as he reflected on his five-year career.
"Statistically, I got two Grey Cups in five years, and I started a lot of games in those five years," said Newman, a Vancouver native who won a CFL title with the Lions in 2011 and Calgary in 2008.
"But, personally, I know I could have done a lot more. I didn't reach my potential, and that's something that I'll have to think about forever, I guess."
Offensive tackle Jovan Olafioye has played out his option and may weigh NFL options after he signed with the St. Louis Rams last winter but had the contract voided after he failed a physical as a result of not taking medication for hypertension. Guards Valli and Jon Hameister-Ries have battled injuries and could have their futures determined by club management.
In the more high-profile positions, quarterback will be an area to watch. Starter Travis Lulay is heading into his option year and, as a rule, general manager Wally Buono does not let marquee players play out the final year of their contracts.
Lulay is trying to keep his options open in case he wants to pursue another chance at the NFL after being released by the Seattle Seahawks and New Orleans Saints before he joined the Lions in 2009. He is aware of Buono's view, and "would not be surprised" if the GM attempts to re-sign him this off-season. If Buono can't sign Lulay this winter, he will have to consider trading Lulay or risk losing him as a free agent a year from now and getting nothing in return.
Meanwhile, backup signal-caller Mike Reilly, who filled in capably for two-plus games when Lulay was sidelined with a shoulder injury late in the season, has played out his option and could receive some interest from other teams. Reilly, 27, has made no secret of his desire to be a starter, and at least two clubs, Edmonton and Winnipeg, could use a new one.
Veteran slotback Geroy Simon, who has two years remaining on his contract, wants to stay, but expects that he will review the pact with Buono as part of usual off-season procedure.
"We'll work something out," said Simon, who missed five games with hamstring problems. "I don't see it being a long, drawn-out process. They know that I want to be here, and I that they want me here."
Changes are also expected on the B.C. defence, which was victimized by unheralded Calgary quarterback Kevin Glenn for three long passing touchdowns Sunday. Linebacker Solomon Elimimian, who returned in mid-season after unsuccessful tryouts with the Minnesota Vikings and Cleveland Browns, is expected to pursue more NFL options.
Coach Mike Benevides, who guided the Lions to a 13-5 record and first-place finish in his inaugural season as a CFL head coach, said change is inevitable, but he believes in the team's core players and veteran assistant coaches.
"There'll be tough decisions all the way across the board," said Benevides. "Any time you come out of a disappointing loss like this, there's always reflection. But I don't think there's a specific area [that's tough to review]. I think the entire process is always a challenge."
After representing the team at the Grey Cup in Toronto, Benevides will conduct a two-week evaluation of all areas of the team. But he believes a "makeover" would cause too much disruption.
So he plans to keep the core intact and make a few adjustments. But first, he wants to take some time to get over the season-ending loss to Calgary.
"It's very fresh," said Benevides. "It's going to take a while for this one to go away."