Arland Bruce III will return to Hamilton this week as a member of the B.C. Lions, but he likely won’t face many heated 1-on-1 battles steeped in personal history between old teammates.
Bruce – who played for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats from July of 2009 until being traded to B.C. in August – may well tangle with defensive players he barely knows this week, as the 7-8 Ticats survey their injured corps and assemble a secondary spotted with unfamiliar faces.
In 2010, Bruce led the Ticats in receiving yards (1,303), receptions (86) and receiving touchdowns (eight). But through four games in 2011, he had grabbed just nine catches for 104 yards and no scores and felt he was being underutilized aside younger receivers.
With the Lions (9-6), Bruce has 35 catches for 577 yards and seven touchdowns in nine games, coinciding with B.C.’s resurgence. The team has lost just one game since his arrival.
Ticats defensive co-ordinator Corey Chamblin says, chances are, Bruce won’t go head-to-head Saturday with players he faced regularly in practice in Hamilton. Since Bruce left, the Ticats have brought in several new defensive backs, including Woodny Turenne, Milt Collins, Loyce Means and Dee Webb.
“I bet there may be some trash talking between Arland and [running back]Avon Cobourne at some point, but the guys on defence that he’ll trash talk with, he won’t really know them,” Chamblin said.
“It comes down to head games when you’re playing against a guy you know, and it becomes like backyard football. You forget your technique and you try and win every play instead of watching what he does and winning with your technique.”
Chamblin says he has three different lineups prepared for the game. He is waiting to see how healthy several of his defensive backs will be for the game (including Means, Collins and Marcell Young).
Bo Smith, who will likely key on Lions receiver Geroy Simon, says he’ll be ready to face Bruce, too, and is helping prep the newer players.
“Arland is my boy, I like Arland,” Smith said. “He can go get the ball, I mean really go get the ball. He’s great at reading the ball in the air and not showing you if the ball is coming or not – he doesn’t put his hand up until right when the ball gets there.”
Several Ticats players had only praise for their former teammate on Tuesday.
“Arland’s not a vengeful person; he’s a guy that’s going to go out and do his job, a professional and I believe a future Hall of Famer,” said quarterback Kevin Glenn, who says the two shared a nice goodbye when they bumped into one another in the airport as Bruce was leaving for Vancouver.
“I never saw it as him not getting it done here or doing anything wrong here. There were younger guys playing well, and the management had a direction they wanted to go in. He is a professional, and I bet he’s preparing the same out there as he did here.”
Hamilton head coach Marcel Bellefeuille said he’s impressed with the chemistry Bruce has shown with Lions quarterback Travis Lulay.
“The biggest thing is what he does when the quarterback extends the play – Travis extends it, and Arland finds a way to get open and catch the football,” Bellefeuille said. “I can say I’m happy for his success. I knew he would be successful and that he still had some game in him.”