Geroy Simon was in plenty of pain Wednesday at the B.C. Lions’ practice.
However, the discomfort was more emotional than physical as the slotback stood and watched his teammates work without him for the second straight day. After testing out a wonky hamstring on his own, he declared himself fit to play in Saturday’s rematch with the Montreal Alouettes at B.C. Place.
“It felt good,” said Simon. “I felt quick, I felt fast, I didn’t feel any pain, I didn’t feel any tightness. So I feel really good — ready to go.”
Simon’s absence raised questions because he said a day earlier he would practise. He was sidelined in the second quarter of last weekend’s 30-25 loss in Montreal.
The 13-year veteran is anxious to show what he could have done if he had been healthy. The West Division-leading Lions (6-3) are seeking to increase the precarious two-point lead they currently hold over the second-place Calgary Stampeders. The East Division-leading Als (6-3) have a similar advantage over the Toronto Argonauts.
“For me to come out here and just have to watch practice, it hurts,” said Simon. “Me not being able to play, it makes it even worse. I felt that I could have helped the team, and I could have been a deciding factor. But, unfortunately, I wasn’t there.”
The Lions lost after quarterback Travis Lulay was unable to complete an attempted touchdown pass to Arland Bruce on B.C.’s last play of the game.
Simon, the CFL’s all-time leading receiver, has not missed a game since he was sidelined for two contests in 2008, also with a hamstring injury. But, he said, the problem then was much worse than it is now.
Simon, who has missed only three games altogether since 2002, said the decision on his status Saturday was up to general manager Wally Buono, coach Mike Benevides and trainer Bill Reichelt. Benevides said he will defer to Simon, but wait right up to the deadline — an hour before game time — before he unveils his lineup.
“He felt better about what happened today, so we’ve got another two days to see how it goes,” said Benevides.
“It’s a process,” added Simon of his recovery. “You don’t want to go out and try to practise 40 plays at practice and get re-injured.”
Simon leads the Lions with 467 receiving yards on 35 catches for an average 13.3 yards per gain. The 36-year-old Johnstown, Pa., native has caught a pass in 169 straight games, but has yet to reach the end zone this season.
He needs one more regular-season touchdown for 100 in his career.
But Lulay was not bothered by Simon’s absence from plays with starters. The quarterback feels he and Simon will still be able to connect when it counts.
“I’ve played enough with Geroy that the chemistry isn’t something I’m as concerned with,” said Lulay. “For him having missed a couple days of practice, he’s earned the right. If he’s healthy to play, he’ll play. Absolutely.
“That being said, it’s good to get the reps with the guy who will play if he’s not.”
Nick Moore, who has spent most of the season on the practice roster after a strong pre-season, took Simon’s place in workouts the past two days. Rookie Ernest Jackson, who has backed up Simon the past four games, is expected to play regardless of Simon’s status.
Lulay said the club is taking the right approach with Simon’s recovery by preparing to have him or his replacement in the lineup. The team must be ready to “plug and play” without him if necessary.
“Guys have gotta be ready to step in and be able to do the job — or esle we’ve got the wrong guys here,” said Lulay.
Notes: The Lions and Als will meet in an afternoon game on the West Coast for the first time since the Western and Eastern teams commenced interlocking play in 1961. ... Montreal has won just once (2010) in the past 11 meetings between the teams in Vancouver. ... B.C. offensive lineman Jesse Newman, who has returned to practise after missing all of the season with a knee injury suffered in training camp, is still not ready to play, said Benevides. Offensive guard Adam Baboulas of Oshawa, Ont., will replace rookie Matt Norman, who has returned to the University of Western Ontario to study teaching.