After opening the CFL season with two straight losses B.C. Lions players say it’s time they begin playing up to their potential.
The Lions will be out to avoid their first 0-3 start since 2002 when they face the Edmonton Eskimos at Commonwealth Stadium tonight (TSN, 7 p.m.).
“It’s time for people to be accountable,” quarterback Buck Pierce said before the Lions left for Edmonton Wednesday.
“We have some veteran players that aren’t playing up to their potential.
“Me personally, I haven’t felt I played as well as I can for four quarters. Did we improve overall from week one to week two? Yes. We have a long way to go and we need to see a lot of improvement this week.”
The Lions come into Edmonton hungry for a victory, but they’ll also be facing an Eskimos team (1-1) still smarting from an embarrassing 50-16 spanking at the hands of the Montreal Alouettes last week.
“You take a loss like that and it makes you want to come back and work harder,” said slotback Fred Stamps. “You want to practice harder and just be prepared for the next week.”
Stamps, who has seven catches for 90 yards this season, said the Eskimos know the Lions can still be dangerous.
“I don’t pay attention to their record too much,” he said. “This is a professional league. You can come out and lose the first two games and win the next five.”
Right now the Lions would be happy with one win.
B.C. gave up just one sack and cut down on mistakes but still lost 31-28 to Hamilton last week.
Veteran slotback Geroy Simon points out the Lions were 0-2 last season before winning four of their next five games.
“There’s a sense of urgency but I don’t think it’s a sense of panic,” said Simon, who has just 10 catches for 100 yards this year. “We have a lot of veterans on this team that have been 0-2, as recently as last year.
“It’s not a sense we are panicking. We know we have a good team. We just need to go out and play with that good intent and that good intensity.”
Wally Buono, the Lions coach and general manager, made some changes to his lineup this week.
After giving up 10 sacks in two games, the Lions released import left tackle Walter Stith. He will be replaced by import Daren Heerspink.
Receiver Ryan Grice-Mullen, who had some key drops in the opening losses, has also been replaced in the starting lineup by Rufus Skillern.
“If the changes send a message, so be it,” said Buono. “We’re trying to improve.
“The thing about sending a message is you can’t necessarily get rid of your whole team. The best way is for all of us to accept the challenge we have to do things better, we have to do things on a more regular basis.”
Some critics are already questioning if Pierce is the right man to lead the Lions. The fifth-year quarterback has completed 43 of 73 passes for 519 yards this season, but has thrown as many interceptions (four) as touchdowns.
Simon said quarterback has not been the Lions problem.
“We know Buck has played well,” he said. “He has made some mistakes. He’s still a young quarterback.
“We’re confident in Buck.”
The Eskimos offence has also been sputtering. Quarterback Ricky Ray has thrown for 598 yards but just one touchdown and one interception.
Overall, Edmonton is last in 12 of the CFL’s offensive categories.