If Wally Buono needed him to strap on a helmet, Barron Miles would be willing because the fire to keep playing still burns.
"I don't want to lose that fire," Miles said. "It's just diverting to a different area." And who knows? Buono, the B.C. Lions general manager and head coach, might make that request later this year, depending on how things are going at safety, a position Miles played with aplomb for the past five years.
But for the foreseeable future, Miles will be coaching instead of playing. The future Hall of Fame inductee announced his retirement yesterday at the team's suburban practice facility, and will join the Lions coaching staff as a defensive assistant.
"At some point, you have to say that it's time to take a new step, take a new journey," the 12-year veteran said. "My family and I are ready for that."
B.C. intends on replacing the 38-year-old with a trio of Canadians, meaning it will change the ratio and employ an American defensive end to bookend Brent Johnson or Ricky Foley, depending on whether the latter re-signs.
Tad Crawford, Miles's caddy for the past three years, will receive first crack at the starting job, but he'll have to fend off training-camp challenges from Jason Arakgi and Mike McEachern.
The winner might be the player who listens and applies Miles's counsel the best. The former University of Nebraska standout had operated like a coach-on-the-field for the past several seasons, and opponents will tell you that he was one of the most diagnostic players in the CFL, evident by his 66 career interceptions, second in CFL history.
"If I had a chance to enter the coaching ranks last year, than I probably would have ended [his playing career]" Miles said. "Players would turn to me on the field and say, 'You're not the coach.' But now I have the title, so it's okay."
The Lions picked up Miles's option for the 2010 season, but tellingly, Buono didn't reply when asked if he would have been invited to training camp in June.
Instead, flanked by his wife Jennifer and three children, the classy Miles said farewell and thanked fans in B.C. and Montreal, where he spent the first seven years of his career. He retires as the CFL's career leader in blocked kicks (13).
Buono, who turns 60 this year, is big on grooming the next wave of CFL coaches, and is particularly interested in keeping long-time veterans in the league after they retire. He did so with Mark Washington, another defensive back who played in B.C. and Montreal, who has been on the Lions staff since 2008.
Buono said Lions owner David Braley allowed him to budget for an additional assistant in 2010, so that Miles could bring his "energy and ideas" to the staff. The team is still seeking another defensive assistant, either to tutor linebackers or the defensive line.
Also yesterday, B.C. hired former CFL receiver Travis Moore to coach pass-catchers. Moore coached running backs with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats last season.