Canadian Football League

Thursday, January 13, 2005

The Vancouver Sun is reporting that If the B.C. Lions lacked sufficient fighting spirit in their inexplicable 27-19 Grey Cup defeat by the Toronto Argonauts, it was because they left some of that fight on the team bus, according to middle linebacker Barrin Simpson.
"The morale on the team wasn't at a high point where it should have been for a game of that magnitude," Simpson said Tuesday, in a telephone interview.
Simpson said a testosterone-laden punch-up between two players on the team bus bound for practice before the Nov. 21 championship game in Ottawa was not only a distraction but caused some elements of the club to take sides, tearing at team unity.
Simpson declined to name the players, but other Lions have confirmed the participants as defensive back Da'Shann Austin and offensive lineman Marques McFadden.
"Actually, the fight was a huge distraction," Simpson said. "Any time there's a fight between teammates on the field, it's over and done with. Off the field, it's a little more personal. There was nothing the coaches or the leaders on the team could do about it. It was grown men making a bad decision."
Linebacker Carl Kidd was fined after leaving the hotel and violating curfew following a team meeting on the Friday before the game. Simpson feels Kidd's minor indiscretion was also part of the "stress and strains" the Lions experienced during Grey Cup week.
"It probably had more impact on Carl and the coaches, but it did have a small impact on the team," he said. "We just had a lot of distractions going on during the week. We didn't play up to our hype. That was probably my worst game of the year. I didn't make the plays I needed to to make our team win."
After leading the CFL in defensive tackles for three straight seasons, Simpson tailed off in his fourth campaign with the Lions in 2004, his normal production muted because of constant double-teaming, differing schemes and injury woes. He disclosed Tuesday that he played the entire season on a pair of sore and damaged ankles.
"Everybody knew about my elbow problems, and they were banged-up pretty good," he said. "But I also had turf toe, bad ankles, all kinds of problems. I didn't say much about it. I just played the game. I feel a whole lot better now than I did on Nov. 22."
Cornerback Dante Marsh, another Lion who was saddled with injury problems (shoulder) but remained silent about them, underwent surgery Dec. 14 in Vancouver to clean up scar tissue and repair a loose tendon.
Marsh said he had an "uneasy feeling" about the Grey Cup game because he didn't feel the Lions were in the proper mindset to play up to their potential.
Marsh described the fight as "a lot of testosterone, a lot of egos, the result of a long season, a lot of people missing their families and looking forward to picking up a $12,000 cheque and going home."
Each individual would take home $12,000 for winning the Grey Cup.
"To be honest, I didn't even know much about Carl's [curfew] issue," Marsh added. "I don't think it affected team morale that much. As far as the fight, it created a divide, maybe. I didn't see our team being as family oriented as we were during the season.
"Still, we're professionals. When the lights come on, we're supposed to perform. Not to dredge up these stories as an excuse, but we should have looked past them and played better."


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