Ullrich: Verbal volley could turn into full-scale war with Lions

Points to ponder about a 26-23 win by the B.C. Lions over the Toronto Argonauts Saturday in which the most entertaining part of the game took place prior to kickoff:

Shots fired: There’s no shortage of conversations a Lions fan would like to be privy to among calls coming out of the office of general manager Ed Hervey but tops on that list would now be the next time he chats with agent Bardia Ghahremani of Mission Viejo, Cal.

Then again, who needs a wiretap when there’s social media?

One of the biggest U.S.-based agents for CFL players unloaded before the Lions’ win Saturday in response to remarks by Hervey to The Province Friday questioning the work ethic of quarterback Jon Jennings.

Hervey questioned the amount of time Jennings is at the team’s practice facility to engage in film study to The Province in a closed-door interview session, reminiscent of the time in 2013 he laid into offensive lineman Simeon Rottier in his first season on the job as general manager of the Edmonton Eskimos.

Ghahremani responded with a bonafide zinger.

“Jonathon is one of the first to arrive to work every day. Ed would know this if Ed weren’t one of the last,” Ghahremani told TSN Saturday.

Yes, now, would this be a good time to talk about a new contract for Jennings next season? How about one for another one of the agent’s clients, Jeremiah Johnson? Or Manny Arceneaux? Solomon Elimimian? He has a deal for 2019 with the Lions but chances are Hervey will want him back only on a reduced salary thanks to his hand injury which has kept him sidelined going on 10 weeks and like Jennings and several other players, already agreed to take a pay cut to stay this year.

Good luck trying to do that again. Fact is, there’s a reasonable chance all four won’t be back.

If Jennings didn’t know before he’s done with the Lions at the end of the season, he does now. That sound you hear is the Lions pivoting in an entirely new direction, thanks to a verbal serve and volley the likes of which had never before been heard in 16 seasons with Wally Buono calling the shots.

Coleman capers: it’s been something of an ongoing debate to score which of Hervey’s trades since the start of training camp have made the biggest impact on the Lions but the deal to acquire Davon Coleman from Hamilton shot to the top of the list with his performance against Toronto.

Coleman was practically the football equivalent of Mikhail Baryshnikov showing off his agility to not only swat down two pass attempts by Will Farrell lookalike McLeod Bethel-Thompson but to snap up both for interceptions. The last Lions defensive lineman with two picks in a game was 12 years ago by Brent Johnson.

“We actually work those tip drills,” Coleman told TSN 1040 afterwards. “Happily my time came. I saw the quarterback take his hand off the ball. I got a hand up and God blessed me twice.”

B.C. had four interceptions, aided by the pressure provided by Coleman and his teammates up front, and nearly had a fifth only for defensive lineman Ivan McLellan to drop another deflected pass.

“I’m going to make him work with the DBs,” Coleman wisecracked.

Coleman cost the Lions a fourth-round draft pick when they needed to make a move after the contract of Euclid Cummings was voided that reportedly would go higher if Hervey re-signs him next season. With what Coleman has brought to aid in the rebirth of the defensive front, that move next year should no longer be in question.

MOP material?: If the Lions didn’t have a dominant threat on offence outside of Jeremiah Johnson (23 touches, 140 yards), they had Coleman on defence and Ty Long on special teams.

Long hit on six-of-seven field goals, including a pair in excess of 50 yards, and also three times pinned Toronto inside the 10-yard-line with punts that again demonstrated his directional progress since signing last year as a rookie free agent meant only to provide relief for veteran Swayze Waters at training camp.

TSN 1040 analyst Farhan Lalji said in the absence of a standout offensive threat down the stretch Long should be in consideration as the team’s outstanding player nominee and when you think about the candidates so far it is a point worth pondering.

Directional kicking had as much value as the loonie to Long when he first arrived but because Buono and special teams coordinator Jeff Reinebold insisted he figure it out Long has turned himself a bona fide NFL candidate when his contract is up after this season on the strength of a 49.6 punt average starting play Saturday.

“It was awkward at one point but they’ve made it to where it’s comfortable,” said Long.

“If anyone knows me I’m a very motivated person. Everyone in their minds think I had a great game but in my mind it’s probably my worst game of the season. I’m a perfectionist. I will be working my ass off the rest of the year to figure it out.”

Long’s punting resulted in an average field position starting advantage of 23 yards against Toronto. Best enjoy the man’s work in the final few weeks before he returns home south of the border.

Lowell Ullrich has covered the Lions since 1999 and was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2014. He is also a contributor to TSN1040.