Pivots to fight it out

JIM BENDER -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 10:57 AM ET

One quarterback was named the CFL's Most Outstanding Player last year but relegated to the bench to start the Grey Cup Game.

The other was the western nominee for the same award the season before and started for that Cup match, which the B.C. Lions lost to the Toronto Argonauts.

And the Leos head into training camp not knowing whether that MVP, Casey Printers, or veteran Dave Dickenson will be their starter when the regular season begins.

"We're not going to declare one as a starter," Lions head coach/GM Wally Buono said during a state-of-the-franchise teleconference call yesterday. "It would be unfair of us not to be open-minded.

"They're both going to compete. There's going to be one quarterback who's happy and one who's going to be disappointed. Some are starters and some are the next in line. But the quarterback who is most productive in camp will play."

FURTHER INTRIGUE

Adding further intrigue is that Dickenson said he was not returning from the NFL in 2003 to be a CFL backup while the Leos are currently negotiating with Printers to extend his current contract beyond 2006.

"The two-quarterback system is always a big part of any championship team," Buono suggested, pointing to the Edmonton Eskimos when they won five straight CFL titles as one example.

Buono also refused to second-guess choosing Dickenson to start in the Grey Cup.

"The only way not to be overly criticized about that was to win," he said.

B.C. did at least deal third-stringer Spergon Wynn to Winnipeg to keep him out of the mix.

Although the Leos lost receiver Chris Brazzell to Hamilton, they are still stacked on offence with the likes of receivers Geroy Simon and Jason Clermont and tailback Antonio Warren. They also signed promising offensive lineman Sherko Haji-Rasouli (Montreal) and veteran centre Moe Elewonibi (Winnipeg) as free agents.

But Buono is determined to shore up his defence as the Lions hope to return to the Grey Cup, which they will host on brand new turf this year.

"Obviously, having the Grey Cup here in Vancouver is giving our organization a tremendous amount of incentive and motivation to improve," he said. "When you fall short, your shortcomings become obvious. And one area we wanted to improve on was our big-play capabilities on defence, which is why we got (veteran defensive back) Barron Miles (Montreal) in free agency. He's a tremendous leader and individual on and off the field."

Buono also hired former Blue Bomber head coach Dave Ritchie as defensive co-ordinator. Both had heart surgery last year.

"We're not sitting around comparing scars," Buono said with a laugh. "I've got Dave on a good training program and he's lost a lot of weight. We were lucky enough to get Dave and he is very excited about being here. He's working hard on getting our playbook ready."

The Lions are projecting a season ticket base of 18,000-19,000, a big hike from 12,500 last season.

Grey Cup tickets go on sale to the general public May 21. About 3,500 have already been sold.


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