VANCOUVER - Offensive lineman Joe McGrath, synonymous with a second-half turnaround by the B.C. Lions last year, could come out of mothballs to help the team do it a second time.
Lions head coach Wally Buono said the return of McGrath is one of the options the Lions are looking at in the wake of a torn triceps injury suffered by starting left guard Jon Hameister-Ries in practice last week. Hameister-Ries is to undergo surgery and will be placed on the nine-game injured list.
“He’d be our seventh guy [offensive lineman] at this point,” Buono said of McGrath. “He’s versatile.”
The Lions released McGrath in May, a week before the start of training, a move that was anticipated when the Lions picked up left tackle Ben Archibald. The free-agent signing gave the Lions the option of moving sophomore pro Jovan Olafioye from the left side to play McGrath’s right-tackle spot.
McGrath, 30, signed with B.C. on Aug. 19 last year after being released by the Edmonton Eskimos and took some satisfaction in making his former coach, Richie Hall, eat his words. Hall deemed McGrath "too soft." But the former Miami Hurricane was a bulwark on the offensive line as the Lions went 7-3 over their final 10 games - with the Moose Jaw native starting at right tackle - to qualify for the playoffs.
McGrath said Sunday that the Lions have discussed his possible return with his agent, Tim Fleiszer. And he bears no grudge toward the club for having released him at a personally inconvenient juncture, well after most CFL teams had posted “no vacancy” signs for their 2011 training camp rosters.
“The league is so small, players get recycled, and coaches get recycled, all the time,” McGrath said from his home in Edmonton. “I don’t take it personally [his release by the Lions] because things happen under weird circumstances. You can’t go around being upset because it’s business.
“I’ll hang up the cleats one day, but I’m not quite ready to do that yet. I’m still young enough, I enjoy the game and I still want to play.”
Hameister-Ries was injured in practice last Wednesday when he tangled with defensive lineman James Bryant, a member of the scout team. However, the initial diagnosis of a strained triceps turned out to be a false hope, when an MRI revealed the tear.
Hameister-Ries flew to Edmonton for Saturday’s game against the Eskimos and was expected to dress in a backup role , with his injured arm taped, as part of the 42-man roster. When the more serious nature of his injury came to light, however, Hameister-Ries was scratched in favour of practice roster player Adam Baboulas.
Jesse Newman started in place of Hameister-Ries at left guard in the Edmonton game.