There are rarely any mind games played by Wally Buono as coach/GM of the B.C. Lions but there are some engaged upon by his players from time to time. Hunter Steward was in that place before. He isn’t now.
Funny how that might coincide with his new position as the starting left guard on the CFL club.
The 25-year-old had his old job back at practice Monday, with Buono admitting he wants Steward (above) to play ahead of veteran Tim O’Neill, who had the spot for four games last month.
There was a message being sent by the Lions that the play of Steward wasn’t up to expectations, and there was a message received. Steward didn’t spend every waking moment wondering why he had been replaced but admitted there was motivation to get his spot back.
“You definitely can get in your own head,” the engaging guard said. “I like to have a good understanding of the big picture. I don’t completely ignore it. I understand it, but I also focus on the two inches in front of my face.”
The transition asked of Steward, moving from the tackle spot he played solidly last season, to guard was difficult but not insurmountable. The result is that the Lions now have a player who can perform well at two spots on the offensive line, and a shift back to tackle, should the club ever get Brett Boyko under contract eventually, could have lasting benefits.
“It definitely was difficult,” Steward admits of the transition. “I have to admit I had my growing pains. But I’m starting to grasp the concepts. I think I’ve got my head wrapped around the change.”
So Steward goes back to guard, but the Lions haven’t yet wrapped their collective heads around another change being contemplated at right tackle, which has been another sore point.
Buono suggested last week he would like to go back to Antonio Johnson but at practice Monday first-team reps were being split with starter Levy Adcock, a favourite of assistant coach Dan Dorazio.
“We want to make a change to shore up our offensive line,” Buono said. “We’re at a point where we have to improve and hopefully making a change or two it’s going to work out.
“We’ve been patient but when you look at the last couple of games there’s been too many hits to the quarterback.”
It’s apparently easier to switch tailbacks than offensive linemen, as Monday it was Jeremiah Johnson back at tailback instead of Anthony Allen. The Lions also had Brandon Stewart still at Ronnie Yell’s cornerback spot, with Keynan Parker and Chandler Fenner splitting reps at Stewart’s old spot defensively.
But so long as he doesn’t spend too much time wondering why he’s all of a sudden starting again, Steward is back where he belongs on the offensive line.
LIONS TALES: The Lions have been in contact with the agent for Boyko, who was released by the San Diego Chargers on the weekend but has not yet been signed by a third NFL club. With a bye week looming, however, the Lions say they are in no immediate rush to get the Saskatoon native under contract… Yell’s injury has been diagnosed as a broken fifth metatarsal bone, which means he will be out at least the next six weeks. Surgery has already been performed where a screw has been implanted… Als coach/GM Jim Popp confirmed he will start Rakeem Cato Friday ahead of Kevin Glenn in an effort to reverse the fortunes of the 3-7 club. It’s the fourth time this year the Lions will have to adjust game plans to allow for a different starting quarterback. Cato led Montreal to a rare road win over B.C. last season.