VANCOUVER — Slotback Paris Jackson lengthened his stride and leaned forward just enough to make a fingertip grab as the ball spiralled over his head.
In a game it would have been a big gain. In Thursday’s practice it was quarterback Casey Printers sending a message to his B.C. Lions receiving corps.
Printers wondered whether he could grip a football at the beginning of the week. Now, he’s overthrowing receivers as he prepares for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the CFL’s East Division semifinal (TSN, 11 a.m.).
“The thumb’s fine,” said Printers who sprained the digit early in Saturday’s 45-13 loss to the Edmonton Eskimos. “I wanted to let them (receivers) know by throwing it too far that, hey, it’s fine, so you need to get on your horse.”
Printers, who played two seasons for Hamilton but was not re-signed after 2008, joined the Lions as a free agent in September when B.C. ran into a rash of quarterback injuries.
On Saturday night they were down to Zac Champion, their fifth-string signal-caller, after Printers left and Buck Pierce couldn’t continue because of a chronic shoulder injury.
Jackson said Printers is throwing the ball with velocity and getting more comfortable with the offence.
“A few of his balls definitely made my hands shake a little bit,” Jackson said.
“Right now, he’s just got to focus a little bit on getting the ball out a little bit faster and us pushing our routes a little bit deeper.
“Over the weeks, we’ve been getting better, better, better and this week we’re going to jell great.”
Printers, the CFL’s most outstanding player in 2004 with the Lions. said he felt hamstrung by Hamilton’s ball-control offence and he’s a better fit with B.C.
“It was drive, drive, drive, drive, then score,” Printers said of his two years in Hamilton after a season on the sidelines of the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs.
“Our offence is a natural ball-control type offence but we can add a certain dimension to it with the presence of the deep ball.
“We can dink, dink, dink, score but my talents enable us to push the ball at times down the football field.”
Coach Wally Buono said he’s not worried about Printers’ throwing ability.
“The big thing is dealing with all the other things that we’re trying to get ready for . . . different looks on defence, the possible crowd noise.”
The Lions, who enter the playoffs on a three-game losing streak, have practised earlier to adjust to the three-hour time difference. Heavy metal music blared from end zone speakers to simulate a rowdy crowd.
Hamilton, 9-9, has a home playoff game for the first time in eight years because they defeated the Blue Bombers 39-17 in Winnipeg on Sunday.
That opened the back door for 8-10 B.C. as a crossover team that was swept by the Ticats in July, 31-28 at home and 30-18 in Hamilton.
While Printers looks for a big play through the air, Hamilton will likely test the Lions on the ground.
B.C. has given up a league-worst average of 138 rushing yards a game so tailback DeAndra’ Cobb of the Ticats has to like his chances facing the Lions for the third time.
Cobb, who finished third in CFL rushing yardage with 1,294, ran for 267 yards and two touchdowns in the wins over B.C. this season.
Winnipeg had 393 rushing yards against B.C. in a 37-10 win on Aug. 21 and Arkee Whitlock had 165 against them on Saturday.