Angry Lions stir pot

IAN BUSBY -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 1:33 PM ET

Coaching football just wouldn't be the same without a heaping helping of stress and pressure.

After five weeks, B.C. Lions head coach Wally Buono and his club are under the microscope thanks to a sub-par start.

The season, so far, has been a stark contrast to 2005.

And while it's much better to be 5-0 than 2-3, Buono sees a lot of similarities between last year and this season.

"This is about one thing: Winning," Buono said yesterday at McMahon Stadium in preparation for tonight's matchup with the Calgary Stampeders (7 p.m., TSN, subject to local blackout).

"The pressure to win is always there. When you don't win, it gets more magnified. When you do win, then there's more pressure because you are expected to win every game."

When a team drops two straight in a balanced league such as the CFL, changes must be made. Instead of several small ones to tweak the roster, Buono has made a significant one.

Starting running back Antonio Warren will sit in place of first-year Lion Joe Smith. Warren, who has been criticized for his poor play.

The message has been sent to all B.C. players. Play on the field means everything and loyalty nothing.

"I've always believed and preached (that) there's pressure every week," Buono said.

"I was asked a question about Antonio Warren being mad. If we don't have 53 mad football players, then we have a problem.

"If you lose, you shouldn't be happy. Tell me something I really don't know."

Both the Stamps and Lions are coming off losses where they had an opportunity to win in the final minutes.

At 3-2, the Stamps are tied for first in the West Division. A loss, coupled with Saskatchewan Roughriders and Edmonton Eskimos' victories, would put them in a tie for last place.

So, although this game only completes the first third of the regular season, the Stamps are feeling their collars tightening after letting one slip away in Hamilton.

"It's not life and death. There's great pressure on the Calgary Stampeders because there are high expectations," said head coach Tom Higgins, who refused to add more stress to the situation.

"We try to have the players realize that it's about human performance, about lining up and playing. I don't know if you help them by squeezing them tighter and putting the hands around the throat."

Asked whether it was good to get the Lions at 2-3, he remarked: "I would rather get them without Dave Dickenson.

"People have asked me about the inconsistency with the B.C. Lions," Higgins explained.

"OK but there's inconsistency across the board. The one thing they've been up and down but when you win, it turns around.

"The difference between team one and team eight in the CFL is nothing. It's based on a couple of plays and couple of calls. The team that loses wonders what it could do to change that. They can go out and win and make it all better."

On Dickenson's last play a week ago against the Roughriders, he threw an interception and then threw his helmet down in disgust.

"There's a sense of urgency, probably on both sides," Dickenson said. "You don't want to get into a hole. A win doesn't solve all your problems but at least puts you in a different frame of mind.

"It's easier to come into work after winning. We've lost a couple and would like to change that."


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