Will he or won't he play?
That's the question swirling around Geroy Simon as the B.C. Lions prepare for Saturday afternoon's game against the Montreal Alouettes in a rematch of CFL division leaders at B.C. Place Stadium.
Simon is still hobbled by the same hamstring injury that forced the veteran slotback to be a spectator for the second half of B.C.'s 30-25 loss to Montreal last week. After missing a couple of days of practise Simon returned to the training field Thursday and took some reps with the starting team.
"I'm looking at playing, I'm planning on playing,'' Simon said. "It's not my decision now.''
Head coach Mike Benevides said the final decision on Simon might not be made until after the pre-game warmup.
Saturday's contest will be a clash of teams with identical records but the West Coast hasn't been kind to Montreal. The Als haven't won at B.C. Place since 2000. They did beat the Lions at Empire Field in 2010.
The Lions also haven't lost twice in a row to the same team since they opened the 1998 season with a pair of losses to Edmonton.
Should Simon not play Nick Moore would take his spot. Moore, who hasn't played since July 28, shrugged when asked about the uncertainty of his status this week.
"It doesn't affect me,'' said the six-foot-two, 195-pound second-year player from Toledo, who has six catches for 68 yards this year.
"I have to prepare even if there was no possibility of me playing. You never know what can happen on the day.''
There's no doubt the Lions are a better team with Simon in the lineup. He's one of those players who always manages to make the big play when most needed. On a second-and-long, when everyone in the stadium expects the ball to go to Simon, he can almost magically make himself wide open for the clutch catch.
Since joining the Lions in October of 2001 Simon has missed only three games. The last time he didn't dress was for two games in 2008.
Simon's presence can calm the huddle. Even if he's not getting the ball he's someone the defence can't ignore, which can leave someone else one.
"He's been such an integral part of everything we have done on offence since I've been here,'' said quarterback Travis Lulay. "It's a little foreign when he's not in there.
"I don't have to see as much (when Simon plays). I can trust a lot of what he's doing because we've done it together for a long time.''
Having Arland Bruce as a slotback helps soften the blow should Simon be knocked out of the lineup.
Bruce had six catches for 76 yards and two touchdowns last week against Montreal. He had a chance to haul in the winning touchdown on the final play of the game but Als' defensive back Billy Parker knocked the ball away at the last second.
Besides Bruce, the defending Grey Cup champions also have sure-handed receivers like Akeem Foster, Shawn Gore, veteran Paris Jackson and running back Andrew Harris.
"We are better now than we were a year ago,'' said Lulay. "Still, having Geroy and Arland in the huddle raises everyone's level of confidence.''
Bruce laughed when asked about filling Simon's shoes.
"You can't replace Geroy Simon. This is his team,'' Bruce said.
"He understands how to read defences well. I know how to read defences well. When you have two guys like that it makes it easier for the quarterback. Now if you have a new guy in there that's not familiar with how these defences are played, it can be frustrating.''
Bruce, who has 30 catches for 445 yards and four touchdowns this season, expects to shoulder more of the leadership role on the field if Simon is sidelined.
"I like to motivate the guys,'' he said. "I think I will have to do that more to keep them in the game.''
It's been a mixed year for Simon, who turns 37 on Tuesday. He became the CFL's all-time leader in receiving yards the first game of the season.
Simon leads the Lions with 35 catches for 467 yards but hasn't caught a touchdown in nine games. He could miss breaking 1,000 yards for the first time since 2002.
"Statistically my numbers are down,'' Simon said. "That happens when you are winning games and don't have to throw the ball that much.
"Half the year is gone. There is still another half to play.''
Simon has always been a team-first guy. The personal accolades don't matter as long as the Lions are winning.
"It's always been that way for me,'' he said. "If I was all about the numbers I would be in the head coach's office every week saying I want the ball.
"Yes I want the ball more. I want more touches, but we're winning. The numbers aren't really that important. What is important to me is winning.''
Playing back-to-back games presents a special challenge for coaches. There are not many secrets left between teams and not much time to devise new wrinkles.
"It's true for both teams,'' said B.C. offensive co-ordinator Jacques Chapdelaine. "You've seen a little bit more and you know a little bit more. It can be used to your advantage.
"Execution, at the end of the day, is always key. I don't think anyone in this league is going to win based on trickery.''
Bruce is itching to play Montreal again.
"You get a chance to play a team again and do things you didn't capitalize on,'' he said.