Heroics a game too late

PERRY LEFKO -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 6:58 AM ET

The B.C. Lions didn't lose the Grey Cup last year against the Argos because of their quarterbacking. But quarterbacking helped them beat the Argos in their season-opening game on Saturday.

Dave Dickenson re-affirmed why he is one of the best pivots in the Canadian Football League with his performance in the 27-20 win at the Rogers Centre. He dissected the Argos defence, which sacked him six times and laid several other vicious hits on him on seven running plays, but couldn't stop him when it mattered.

When the Argos took the lead midway in the fourth quarter, the diminutive Dickenson led the Lions on an impressive touchdown drive, chewing up the clock in the process.

Argos quarterback Damon Allen had a good game -- and just missed completing a game-tying touchdown pass to Arland Bruce with 17 seconds to go. It was somewhat reminiscent of a play in last year's Grey Cup in which Dickenson missed by inches on a long bomb to slotback Geroy Simon. It was probably the single biggest play of the game for B.C., which lost 27-19, meaning a touchdown and a two-point convert were the difference.

In that game, Lions head coach Wally Buono started Dickenson over sophomore phenom Casey Printers. Buono watched Printers in practice and determined that a shoulder injury he suffered in the Western final prevented him from throwing will full velocity. Combined with the fact Printers had some problems with the Argos' complicated defence -- one of the few occasions he had troubles in a season capped off by the league's most outstanding player award -- Buono favoured Dickenson, much to the dismay of some critics.

Dickenson had been the team's starter, but had to take some time off after the third game of the season because of a knee that required off-season surgery and two subsequent procedures.

The fact that Printers did such a marvelous job in relief -- far greater than anyone in the Lions could have imagined because he had gone into training camp as the third-stringer -- enabled the Lions to go as far as they did.

But given the opportunity to re-claim his job, Dickenson did just about everything right in the Cup.

Now fast forward to this past Saturday. Dickenson started because Printers missed considerable training time in the off-season with toe surgery and then shoulder problems early in training camp. All off-season, Printers and his agent/cousin Jason Medlock griped the player should be paid akin to the elite quarterbacks in the league. Dickenson is paid roughly $450,000 a season.

When Dickenson re-joined the CFL in 2003 following two seasons as a wandering quarterback in the NFL, he had a proven resume. He had won the CFL's most outstanding player honours with Calgary in 2000 and that carried significant cache.

Lions owner David Braley made him the highest-paid player in the league -- at that time -- then left seven-year starter Damon Allen in limbo. Ultimately, Allen was traded to Toronto, but had his moment of reckoning in the Grey Cup when he played solidly and was named the most valuable player in the game.

TALKS ON HOLD

The Lions have offered Printers, who is in his early 20s, a three-year extension totalling $1 million. He receives $65,000 a year on a deal that expires after next season. If he extends the deal, he forsakes trying the NFL as early as after this season when his contract allows him to do that.

While he has indicated contract talks are on hold until after the season, he's still moaning about wanting to start, or at the very least play, which speaks well of his competitive desire but less about being a team player.

But until the coaches feel he is physically ready, Printers will be the backup to Dickenson.

He played solidly in the pre-season and in the first game. And as long as he continues doing that, Printers will be watching from the sidelines. 


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