VANCOUVER - The B.C. Lions' big-play offence just got bigger with the confidence-boosting return of all-star slotback Geroy Simon for Friday's key game against the Calgary Stampeders.
Simon, the 2006 MVP and the CFL's leading receiver with 1,293 yards last season, missed two games with a pulled hamstring.
"When I'm out there I would hope that our team's a lot more confident that we can make big plays and when it's nut-cutting time they know the ball's coming to me and I can make a play for us," Simon said after Thursday's workout.
Simon, who passed Jim Young as the Lions' all-time leading receiver this year, is still seventh in the CFL with 23 catches for 463 yards despite being on the shelf.
"He's always one of the top receivers in the league, possibly the best receiver in the league," Calgary linebacker JoJuan Armour said.
"But he doesn't start out with the ball in his hands so it's up to us to make sure he doesn't see the ball too often."
Both the Lions and Stampeders have 4-3 records and are coming off bye weeks and Week 7 victories over West Division opponents.
The Stampeders have lost seven straight games at B.C. Place. Their last victory was Aug. 1, 2002 when Wally Buono was coaching them. Buono was lured to the Lions the next season.
"It should be a very intense game and, hopefully, not too high-scoring," Buono, whose club lost its season-opener 28-18 to Calgary, said of the rematch.
Wide receiver Paris Jackson, who's making a case for top Canadian honours this season, picked up some of the slack in Simon's absence and leads B.C. with 32 catches for 526 yards.
But he's glad to see Simon back in the lineup.
"He's one of those big-play guys that you need to have on your team," Jackson said. "He's the MVP of the league, he's the best player on our team and just having him on the field just brings more attention to him and gets (receivers Jason) Clermont, myself and Clarence (Coleman) more time to do things with the ball."
Jackson also doesn't mind sharing the ball a little more.
"It's going to take the pressure off me and the double teams. I feel that Geroy and myself are the best two short-side wide receivers together on the field so having him out is just going to make my job a lot easier and hopefully I can make his job easier."
Quarterback Jarious Jackson is glad to see a familiar face back in the huddle along with right guard Sherko Haji-Rasouli who's also coming off a hamstring injury.
"Just knowing that he's going to be out there on the field, you know he's going to draw a lot of attention defensively so whether or not he's getting the ball or other receivers it just opens up things more for your team," Jackson said of Simon's return.
The Lions will be facing veteran quarterback Henry Burris who is first in completion percentage at 68.5 and is among the top three in TD passes, completions, passing yardage and quarterback rating.
"It's just being a manager of the game, taking care of the ball, making good decisions, eating popcorn and watching guys like Ken-Yon Rambo (the top receiver in the West) make plays on the other side," Burris said.
One key for Calgary will be handling the Lions' sack-happy front four.
"They pin their ears back early on and they try to get after the quarterback, make big plays and cause turnovers," Burris said.
In Calgary, the Stampeders scored early and showed they could move the ball.
"We were physical and we were able to chop down some of those guys up front. We're a physical team that plays hard."
Paris Jackson won't argue with that assessment.
"They bring this mindset that they think they're tougher than us so we have to bring that mindset too," he said.
Jarious Jackson said Calgary dominated every phase of the win at McMahon Stadium.
"Guys were picking themselves up off the ground left and right. And if you don't have a bad taste in your mouth from that game, you shouldn't be playing football."
NOTES: Lion Stefan Logan starts at tailback instead of the enigmatic Joe Smith, last year's CFL rushing leader ... Buono says he favours Logan because he's a more explosive runner, making Smith a healthy scratch for the second straight game ... it's the first regular-season game against the Lions for Calgary backup quarterback Dave Dickenson who was released by B.C. at the end of last season.
Should be another great game at BC Place tonight. Two teams that both respect and dislike one another. Did anyone see the piece on TSN that featured Wally and Huff's relationship? Very interesting stuff. Here is the link: http://watch.tsn.ca/cfl/#clip85054
Prediction: Stamps have lost 7 straight games at BC Place. Lions will make it 8 tonight. The return of Geroy should really help the Lions offence get back on track.