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Why the Ticats traded Arland Bruce (and what he really thinks of them)
A few days ago, I got an email from Scratching Post reader Adam which read, in part:
Last year I brought my girlfriend's little sisters to the playoff rally to meet their favourite players, Baggs and Bruce. The eldest one met Baggs, but the youngest was unable to get through and meet Bruce, so I promised her this year we would meet him for an autograph. Unfortunately, Arland was traded away (which I still feel that kick in the sack everytime I see him in the endzone), but regardless, I would really like to hold my promise and get her to meet her favourite player which is still Mr. Bruce.
Within Adam's email was an implied question that I think many Ticat fans are asking: why did the team dump an elite-level receiver for, essentially, a bag of footballs. It's an interesting question.
When Arland Bruce was traded in August he had nine catches for 104 yards and no touchdowns through the first four games. Since landing in Vancouver in early August, he's collected 35 catches for 577 yards and seven scores in nine games.
So what led to the turnaround?
I think it was a number of factors. First, he's playing on the opposite of one of the league's premier receivers in Geroy Simon, meaning defences are not rolling coverage to his side as they did through much of his time in Hamilton. Second, B.C. quarterback Travis Lulay's style, in which he extends plays with his legs, suits Arland who, after all these years, knows where to go to find the seams in a defence. Ticat coach Marcel Bellefeuille made these points during his press conference yesterday.
But there is a bit more to it than that: there are some that believe that Arland Bruce has lost a step, that he no longer gets easy separation from defenders and is therefore more effective when things break down and he can make something out of nothing. Arland said yesterday that B.C. offence "wasn't a timing system" like Hamilton's, which is another interesting observation.
And there are other factors. Arland could see that the Ticats were trying to get bigger and faster through young receivers like Chris Williams, Bakari Grant and Aaron Kelly (and giving Mo Mann a bigger role, though that fell through when he got hurt.) It was pretty much a given that the Ticats had no intention of picking up the option year on his contract next season. Arland, it was clear, was no longer The Man.
By going to B.C., he's been able to re-invent himself as a complimentary piece, a role that's easier to assume coming into on a new team than slide into on an existing one. He's motivated, in part, by a desire to show the Lions what he can do so they'll pick up the last year on his still-lucrative deal. And of course there's the old stand by, wanting to prove everybody wrong.
Arland being Arland, as careful and cryptic in mass media settings as ever, he alluded to some of these things in his scrum yesterday but not others.
“It put some more coals in my grill – it set me on fire and motivated me because I feel, without it being said, people were wondering 'does he still have it?' It made me work even harder.?
“The Ticats were there for me through thick and thin. They accepted me and I did what I was supposed to do for them. I have a lot of great memories here – a lot of disappointments too.?
I asked Arland about Mann's comments when he was traded, in which he said that Hamilton was not a veteran-friendly place and alluded that he and Arland would have lots to took about in the off-season (Mann was at it again yesterday, encouraging Arland to "smash them fools homie!" on Twitter.)
Arland, who is, despite his reputation for speaking out, impossible to goad into inflammatory comments (the only time he goes off is when he's emotional) looked at me with that hard stare of his.
“We'll have to wait until December to talk, then I'll get back with you.?
And that was it. That was as close as Arland Bruce was going to get to slamming his old team and he went on to say nice things about them (no bitterness, with me through thick and thin, yada yada yada.)
The truth lies, as always, somewhere in the middle. Arland is smart enough to recognize that the Ticats did him two favours: one by rescuing him from Toronto when he was essentially a pariah and two, trading him before things got ugly here and giving him a chance to re-invent himself (and earn his money) in Vancouver. Arland is being as truthful as he can be, choosing to emphasize certain things over others, understanding as he does that there's nothing to be gained by burning bridges in a league with eight teams.
However... there seems little question that certain players find life under Bellefeuille's regime difficult. While I think the organization treats players well and with respect - Obie's been at this a long time and Scott Mitchell was a player agent so they know the mind of the player – it's pretty clear that Bellefeuille runs a tight ship and one that isn't afraid to replace veterans when they feel the time has come (which also jibes with Obie's 'better is better' way of thinking.)
This is not a criticism, necessarily, just an observation and it goes at least part way to explaining Mann's comments, Nikki Jimenez's tweets and Arland's cryptic quote. Taken on their own, these things can all be dismissed. Together though, a pattern may be emerging. Winning, as it always does, will make all these issues slide back under the surface.
As for Adam, he and and his girlfriend's sister Alexis came to walkthrough yesterday and, with a minor assist from B.C.'s generally excellent PR guy Jamie Cartmel, got an autograph, a pic and a few moments of genuine interaction from the ever-gracious Arland Bruce. Adam was wearing a Ticats Bruce jersey and Alexis was sporting a shy perma-smile.
Hey Drew, it's Adam from today. I would like to thank you very much for helping Alexis and I meet Arland, we greatly appreciated it, and I know she was extremely happy and still is talking about it. Thanks, and oskee wee wee!