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THE CANADIAN PRESS
VANCOUVER — The longtime face of the B.C. Lions’ franchise is heading to Saskatchewan.
Geroy Simon, the CFL’s all-time receiving yards leader, was traded to the Roughriders on Thursday in exchange for receiver Justin Harper and a third-round pick in the 2014 Canadian college draft.
|More Simon Trade Coverage
» Video: Nye Breaks Down Simon Trade
“This has been the toughest decision I’ve ever had to make in my professional life,” Simon said. “This is a tough day. This is a very tough day. But in the end this is a decision we had to make.
Lions general manager Wally Buono said the decision to trade the popular slotback was mututally agreed upon by Simon and the club.
“He has to fit in and he has to want to fit in,” Buono said when asked of the decision to trade Simon.
A two-time Grey Cup champ and six-time CFL all-star, Simon has recorded 15,787 yards over his 14-year career.
Hamstring problems forced him to miss five games last year, limiting him to 54 catches for 700 yards and two touchdowns. It marked the first time in 10 seasons Simon hadn’t cracked the 1,000-yard plateau.
The six-foot, 198-pound native of Johnstown, Pa., needs just 29 catches to break Ben Cahoon’s CFL record of 1,017 career receptions.
“In order for me to exhaust my talent as a football player I felt I had to move forward,” Simon said.
Once the Lions’ season ended, Simon said he was open to restructuring his contract but if the team didn’t want him back he’d look to continue playing elsewhere. Buono said Wednesday that he had given Simon and his camp permission to gauge interest in a potential trade.
“You have to separate the emotional side from the business side,” Simon said. “This is what is so tough, because emotionally I’m still a B.C. Lion.”
Speaking at an availability in Regina, Riders GM Brendan Taman said Simon’s talent and experience will help his team.
“Obviously, his on-field play speaks for itself,” said Taman. “But the other thing he’s going to bring is his leadership. His value to our team on and off the field is going to be immense. Geroy’s got some points to prove to a lot of people he still can play. So I think there’s a lot of bonuses to doing it.
“We know he’s 37. We’re aware of that, but Ray Lewis is 37 and he’s going to the Super Bowl.”
Riders coach Corey Chamblin said Simon will complement Weston Dressler and be a “big veteran presence in the locker-room.”
“We all know what he’s done in this league, and he still has more to do,” Chamblin told reporters.
“I guess everyone needs change. We all thought he would probably finish his career as a B.C. Lion, but he wanted change.”
Simon, 37, began his CFL career with Winnipeg in 1999 before signing with B.C. as a free agent following the 2000 season. He received the league’s outstanding player award in 2006 after registering 105 catches for 1,856 yards and 15 TDs, all career highs.
B.C. was 5-0 without Simon last year when it finished atop the West Division standings with a 13-5 record. The Lions dropped a
34-29 decision to the Calgary Stampeders in the conference final.
Buono and Simon were scheduled to hold a media availability at the Lions’ practice facility later Thursday.
Harper, a 27-year-old native of Catawba, N.C., is entering his second CFL season. He had nine catches last year for 95 yards.
“I wasn’t big on giving as much as we did, but we had to get a deal done, because I wasn’t going to let (Simon) go to free agency, because we wanted to get the guy,” said Taman.
“So we had to do something. Harper’s a good young player too and I think he’ll do fine for them.”