There once was a time playing the Hamilton Tiger-Cats was the best medicine for an ailing team like the B.C. Lions.
But add slotback Arland Bruce III to an already rejuvenated Hamilton club, and the struggling Lions know they face a tough challenge when they meet the Ticats in today’s CFL game (TSN, 5:30 p.m.) at Ivor Wynne Stadium.
“It’s not the Hamilton of old,” said Lions linebacker Javier Glatt. “They have turned the corner in a lot of ways.
“They believe they can win and they believe they have talented players. That’s the first step in the right direction.”
Bruce is anxious to prove the Ticats made a wise decision in acquiring him in a trade from the Toronto Argonauts on Wednesday. He was dealt after getting fined four times this season for missing meetings and misplacing his playbook, then publicly clashing with head coach Bart Andrus.
“My job is to help this team win,” said Bruce. “I haven’t played ball in a week. I’m hungry now, like a rookie coming in.”
The Lions (1-3) are coming off a humiliating 48-10 thrashing at the hands of the Calgary Stampeders. Hamilton (2-2) lost 21-8 to Montreal last week but beat B.C. 31-28 in Vancouver earlier this month.
Wally Buono, the Lions coach and general manager, said putting Bruce in the lineup just makes Hamilton that much better.
“Arland Bruce is a good player,” said Buono. “From our point of view, we’ve always had a tremendous respect for him.
“But Hamilton has got a lot of other good players. If Arland does play, you have to cover the receivers.”
Bruce did not make the trip west for the Argonauts’ win over Winnipeg last week, when he was suspended for conduct Andrus deemed unprofessional.
Bruce denied he brings any baggage with him.
“I’m going to continue to work hard and contribute and interact with my teammates,” he said. “I come to play every day.
“I come to work every day. I’m not looking to be better than the team. I’m just here to play football.”
Dealing with Bruce is just one item on B.C.’s to-do list.
The Lions spent the week practising in sweltering temperatures but have faced even more heat off the field following their dismal performance against Calgary.
Buono has decided to stick with Buck Pierce as his starting quarterback. Pierce was ineffective against Calgary and has thrown for just 653 yards, four touchdowns and five interceptions this year.
Pierce said he’s willing to shoulder some of the blame, but points to an offensive line that has allowed 16 sacks and a rushing game that has managed just 406 yards.
“You can look at the quarterbacking and say it hasn’t been great,” said Pierce. “I think a lot of things need to come together.
“As a whole, we need to play better. Guys need to be able to count on the other guy. They need to be able to count on me, that I’m going to get the ball out of my hands. I need to count on them that we are all going to be doing our assignments.”
Buono said there’s plenty of room for improvement, everywhere.
“Defensively we have to play 60 minutes,” he said.
“Special teams have to be more productive on the return side.
“Offensively, the key for me is you have to stay on the field. If you stay on the field you get continuity, you give the defence a break, and you give your team some hope.”