SURREY – Last Sunday was cut down day across the Canadian Football League and more often than not, it is a time when teams tend to make cuts that seem somewhat surprising to fans and not so shocking to those behind closed doors at the football operations facilities around the country.
The transactions usually contain the release of one or two older, more expensive veterans in the interest of bringing on a cheaper but less experienced young talent that may or may not work out as well as their now free agent predecessor.
A common approach that the BC Lions are steering clear of, especially in the secondary and it is difficult to fault them.
The Lions have stockpiled a starting defensive secondary that already featured CB Dante Marsh, DB Korey Banks and DB Ryan Phillips and now lays claim to Toronto castoff Byron Parker.
All five have been division All-Stars, all five have years of experience under their belts and all five, should they continue to play at the level they have proved capable of in the past, could develop into one of the most star-studded and productive secondary corps in recent memory.
The newest addition to the secondary is Byron Parker who has spent the majority of his career with Toronto before signing with the Lions as a free agent last winter.
Heading into his eighth season in the CFL, Parker feels this is one of if not the deepest group of defensive backs he has ever been a part of.
“As far as veteran experience goes, yes this is it”, Parker told CFL.ca. “But those 2005, ’06 and ’07 defences in Toronto were pretty deep too.We have a lot of experience back there and a lot of playmakers and we probably have the best DB back there in Korey Banks so it’s definitely going to make this season a whole lot of fun”.
Parker speaks fondly about Toronto but is clearly in a different situation in Vancouver. While in Double Blue, Parker was looked upon to be one of the leaders, especially in the last few seasons, in a secondary that was changing from year-to-year.
At 31-years-old, Parker feels like a rookie all over again and instead of focusing on trying to be the glue that holds the secondary together, he can concentrate on the new system and just playing his position.
“That was one of the reasons that I wanted to come out here”, he continued. “I just wanted to show up and play. Not necessarily have to worry about being one of the vocal leaders on the team and I can just go out and do my thing. I am blessed to have Dante Marsh, Korey Banks and Ryan Phillips back there in the secondary (helping me out)”.
A who’s who of ball-hawkers, the Lions starting secondary alone boasts numbers that would make most teams think twice about throwing the ball up. They have combined for 1,297 defensive tackles, 116 interceptions and 20 interceptions for touchdowns, nine of which belong to Parker who set a new CFL record in the category late last year.
With so much hardware and accolades, however, outsiders would be fair to assume that there could be a clash of personalities. That couldn’t be further from the truth according to Parker.
“There is no ego here. We do have competition amongst each other though. By that I mean good competition, positive competition. We all want to be the one to make that play – we know that there is only one ball but nobody said that we can’t catch every ball that comes our way.”
Parker’s sentiments are echoed by fellow defensive back Ryan Phillips who said that although competition is heavy, ego and past glory is not part of their makeup as a group.
“Continuity is coming along really fast here and everybody has the same goals”, Phillips said. We want to help one another but at the same time we all want to out-do one another as well.”
Another piece to the puzzle within the Leos secondary can be found off the field in Defensive Coordinator Rich Stubler. A defensive mastermind during his time in Toronto, Stubler’s experience coaching Parker gives BC decided advantage according to Phiilips.
“It gives us an edge that Byron has played under coach Stubler before so he knows his schemes at what it takes to play within his defence.”
Parker, Phillips and the Lions will get their first shot at playing together in the regular season when they host the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in a rematch of last year’s Grey Cup at BC Place on Friday (10:00 pm).