September 29, 2006

Smart substitution sticks

Quiet release of return specialist Lockett hands job to rookie

By Lyndon Little,
Vancouver Sun

The B.C. Lions have quietly released kick returner Aaron (the Rocket) Lockett.

After maintaining for more than two seasons that the former Kansas State track star was the answer as a returner, the club has decided to go in a different direction. Lockett was replaced by rookie Ian Smart for last Sunday’s game in Regina. But at the time the team hedged as to whether or not the move meant Lockett was definitely out of the picture.

“That was last week’s news,” head coach Wally Buono said Thursday when questioned about Lockett’s absence. “He was let go and you guys missed it.”

The speedy Lockett had his moments as a Leo, such as when he was named CFL special teams player of the week last season after a September game in Ottawa. He ran back two punts for touchdowns last season, but the new rules this year restricting return blocking seemed to hamper his production more than that of some others around the league.

After an encouraging first game, Smart has Lockett’s job for at least the time being. The compact 5-8, 197-pound graduate of C.W. Post has the added advantage of being a backup at running back, where the team is thin due to the injury to Mark Nohra.

QB BY COMMITTEE?: While Dave Dickenson remains the team’s starter, there are signs quarterbacking might be a bit more of a group effort for the next little while, at least until the CFL’s MVP of 2000 has fully recovered from the high ankle sprain first sustained Aug. 4 against Edmonton. Rather than giving the bulk of the practice reps to their acknowledged No. 1, the team on Thursday pretty well split the action between Dickenson, Buck Pierce and Jarious Jackson.

“They just decided to give us all equal reps today,” said Dickenson, who didn’t read anything too significant into the move.

INJURY FRONT: Dickenson practiced without the support of his ankle brace, a sign he feels his nagging sprain is improving. He’ll wear the brace Saturday in Hamilton, though … Nohra wears a removable protective cast in practice only. He has regained almost full mobility of his broken left hand … While Sherko Haji-Rasouli will start at right guard again, Bobby Singh is back on the active roster after missing four games with a torn shoulder muscle. Rookie offensive lineman Dean Valli will sit down this week to make room for Singh.