Updated: January 23, 2013 3:28 PM | By Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press, thecanadianpress.com

Lions give Simon chance to gauge interest



Lions give Simon chance to gauge interest

B.C. Lions' wide receiver Geroy Simon celebrates after catching a pass to become the CFL's all-time leader for pass reception yards, during the second half of a CFL football game against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in Vancouver, B.C., on Friday June 29, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

He has long been the face of the B.C. Lions and last year became the CFL's all-time receiving yards leader. But all-star slotback Geroy Simon could be chasing the league's receptions record with a different team.

Lions GM Wally Buono said Wednesday he has given Simon permission to gauge interest in a potential trade that, if consummated, would see the 37-year-old finish his illustrious CFL career elsewhere.

"I have given Geroy's party the ability to investigate what's out there because sometimes a team is willing to be a little bit more open to a player," Buono said. "We're trying to resolve a situation with a player that's been a very very good player not only on the field but also in the community . . . out of respect to Geroy, we're trying to accommodate him.''

Simon's future in B.C. has been a huge question this off-season. Simon has spent 12 of his 14 CFL seasons with the Lions and last year surpassed Milt Stegall as the league leader in all-time receiving yards (15,787).

But hamstring injuries forced Simon to miss five games in 2012, limiting him to 54 catches for 700 yards and two TDs. It marked the first time in 10 seasons Simon hadn't cracked the 1,000-yard plateau.

The six-foot, 198-pound native of Johnstown, Pa., needs just 29 catches to break Ben Cahoon's CFL-record 1,017 career receptions.

Neither Simon nor his agent, Vancouver-based Dan Vertlieb, were immediately available for comment. Once the Lions' season ended, Simon did say he was open to restructuring his contract, but if the CFL club didn't want him back he'd look to continue playing elsewhere.

"Obviously, I'm a B.C. Lion and plan on being a B.C. Lion, and that won't change until they tell me otherwise," Simon said at the time.

Buono would like Simon back so long as the former Maryland star was content with a restructured deal and possibly a reduced role in the offence.

"I understand all this, which is why I'm not annoyed or angered by it," Buono said. "We're trying to resolve this and if we can, great, because I think it's an advantage to everybody to resolve it but what I'm saying today is the status quo cannot be.

"In fairness to any veteran player, their time comes and the question is when is that time? Our job, unfortunately, is to look into the crystal ball, make a decision not based on what you know but what you're observing.''

Simon began his career in Canada with Winnipeg in 1999 before signing with B.C. as a free agent in following the 2000 season. Since joining the Lions, Simon has been named a league all-star six times, won two Grey Cups and in 2006 received the CFL's outstanding player award after registering 105 catches for 1,856 yards and 15 TDs, all career highs.

But B.C. was 5-0 without Simon last year when it finished atop the West Division standings with a 13-5 record. The defending league champions fell short of a second straight Grey Cup appearance, losing 34-29 to the Calgary Stampeders in the conference final.

Injuries to both Simon and veteran Arland Bruce III left B.C.'s offence without two big-play receivers, however youngsters Nick Moore, Courtney Taylor and Ernest Jackson were allowed to blossom. The dilemma facing B.C. was weighing what remaining production Bruce and Simon still had against how their presence on the field would take away playing time from the younger receivers and impact their continued growth and development.

Last week, B.C. released the 35-year-old Bruce and veteran cornerback Byron Parker — both quickly signed with the Montreal Alouettes. The moves weren't surprising as they came shortly after the Lions signed quarterback Travis Lulay to a contract extension reportedly worth $450,000 annually.

But Simon's situation isn't so simple because it's not based totally on money. There's also getting Simon, who has been a No. 1 receiver for much of his CFL career, to accept a new role within the offence.

Exactly what that role is isn't known but it's clear the Lions and Simon disagree on what it should be. And if Simon's camp can't work out a trade the remaining scenarios include: The Lions continuing to talk with Simon, working their own trade or releasing him outright.

In the past, Buono has simply released a veteran rather than ask him to take a pay cut. But Buono said this situation is much different because of what Simon has meant to the Lions, on and off the field.

"This is all being done out of utmost respect for Geroy the football player, Geroy the person and Geroy the personality," Buono said. "I would be a real jerk if I didn't do it this way.

"In my past I've not handled it this way but to me these are special circumstances.''

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