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Lions' Buono still looking for improvements after Pierce trade

The Canadian Press

9/9/2013 5:32:49 PM

SURREY, B.C. -- B.C. Lions general manager Wally Buono says he's not finished looking for possible roster revisions following the acquisition of veteran quarterback Buck Pierce.

"Are we gonna stop (trying) to improve ourselves? No," Buono said Monday. "We are looking at bringing in other players."

Traditionally, CFL clubs look at final NFL cuts at this time of year to mainly build for future seasons. But while rendering a blunt assessment of his club, Buono indicated the Lions could bring in talent for the current campaign.

"There are going to be players available that can help you to better yourself," he said. "Whether you better youself in one or two positions, the whole idea is to better yourself."

The Lions acquired Pierce, who spent his first five CFL seasons with B.C., from Winnipeg on Sunday for non-import receiver Akeem Foster. Buono and coach Mike Benevides stressed that Pierce, whose history with concussions led to his release from B.C. in 2010, was acquired strictly for depth purposes.

But Buono hopes that, through his experience and leadership, Pierce will help the Lions stop their inconsistent play.

"There should be an urgency," said Buono. "There's eight games left in the season, and we've been on a very rhythmic kind of procedure -- one good game, one so-so game, one good game, one so-so game. That's not the way we envisioned (the season). Whether this is sending a message or not, I guess the message I want to send is: We need help, and Buck can help us."

The Lions, 6-4 following a loss to Hamilton in Guelph, Ont., over the weekend, are in danger of having to play away from B.C. Place Stadium in the playoffs.

"Hamilton came here (the previous week), didn't win, they went home and they had an attitude," said Buono. "We came back after a Montreal loss with an attitude. You can't pick and choose when you're gonna play with an attitude. Right now, our club is picking and choosing when we're playing with an attitude, and that's a dangerous thing to do.

"All the clubs are tough, all the clubs are competitive, and it's the attitude that gets you over the hump."

More consistency was expected from a veteran-laden club that finished 13-5 last season and was left seething from an upset loss at home to Calgary in the West Final. Buono said the Lions' current plight is a characteristic of a veteran club that realizes the playoffs count that most.

"How much does a (regular) season really mean?" Buono asked. "Well, to me, it means a lot, because a home playoff game is an important game to have. Biggest game of the year is something that we should be striving for. You have to be a real pro.

"People that pay for tickets, they expect that, and we've been really good at home and we've been really, I think, average and less than average on the road."

But it remains to be seen how much Pierce, who turns 32 in November, can really help the cause on the field given his injury history and his struggles this season in Winnipeg, where he was displaced as the starter.

Buono released him after the 2009 season because he was concerned about the QB's risk of suffering a debilitating injury following a series of concussions and other health woes. But Buono said the situation is not the same now, because Travis Lulay, who passed for 300 yards in the back-to-back games against Hamilton and signed a new contract at the beginning of the season, is still the esablished starter.

"The whole impetus of that was that we were not willing to make Buck a starter, because we just felt we needed to have stability considering what occurred with Dave Dickenson was occurring with Buck," said Buono. "I think this situation is totally different."

Buono released Dickenson, who also suffered from concussions, because of concerns for further damage. Dickenson subsequently was forced to retire from the Calgary Stampeders because of his head injuries, and now serves as their offensive co-ordinator.

"We're looking at a player of Buck's experience to come in and give us some depth and, hopefully, give us a little more leadership, too," said Buono.

"We have a very tough schedule, and to get a guy like Buck, who has championship experience and who's a veteran, I think he's going to come and add some depth to our team."

He said second-year pro Thomas DeMarco, B.C.'s current backup quarterback and rookie Chris Hart, now No. 3, still have a future with the organization, but the Lions need an experienced quarterback to deal with the high-pressure defences that teams are deploying. In two of the past three games, Lulay was hounded by blitzing Montreal and Hamilton clubs that beat the Lions.

In 34 games in which Pierce started between 2005 and 2009, the Lions compiled a 21-12-1 mark. After joining the Bombers as a free agent in 2010, Pierce started 32 of 33 games, but became disenchanted with Winnipeg's management earlier this season when the club indicated its preference for going with younger signal-callers.

In nine CFL seasons, the New Mexico State product has thrown for 15,059 yards on 1,179 completions, a 64.3 completion percentage and 73 touchdowns.

Benevides said DeMarco will retain the No. 2 role until "the process" between him and Piece plays itself out.

"We're not banking on Buck coming here and being our saviour," said Buono. "We have a very good (starting) quarterback."

Notes: The Lions confirmed they have placed injured centre Angus Reid (back) on the nine-game injured list that covers the second half of the season. He could return to action earlier if healthy. He was also on the nine-game injured list in the first half of the season. ... Pierce is slated to practise with B.C. on Wednesday. ... Foster, a 26-year-old Ajax, Ont., native in his fourth CFL season, was at the Lions practice facility Monday, but did not address reporters.