VANCOUVER — The B.C. Lions are gambling veteran receiver Arland Bruce will give them a spark to help the struggling team turn its season around.
B.C. obtained Bruce from the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Wednesday in a trade for a third-round draft pick in 2012 and an additional conditional selection.
The Lions, the CFL’s only winless team at 0-5, are hoping Bruce brings some veteran experience to a young receiving corps that has dropped passes at critical times.
Bruce is expected to play slotback along with Geroy Simon, giving the Lions a two-pronged attack.
“A guy like Arland Bruce, I think for us gives us a very dependable, big-time receiver that is really going to help balance the field,” Wally Buono, B.C.’s coach and general manager, said after his team practiced.
“It’s going to take a lot of pressure off Geroy. Defensively (teams) are going to have to be a little more balanced. Hopefully it gives the quarterback a guy everyone can count on.”
The deal came as a bit of surprise, even for Bruce.
“I was a little puzzled,” he said in a telephone conference call. “It’s the nature of the business.
“I accept the good and the bad. I think it’s an opportunity for myself to really refresh and get my mind back bright and clear and have an opportunity to play with another quarterback and see what happens.”
Bruce won’t be in the lineup when the Lions host the Saskatchewan Roughriders (1-4) Friday night at Empire Field. He won’t practice with the team until next week.
Buono may be rolling the dice on how much of an impact Bruce might have. The 33-year-old from Olathe, Kan., has just nine catches for 104 yards this year with Hamilton (3-2).
He missed one game with a knee injury and wasn’t scheduled to play this week due to a bruised hamstring.
Bruce calls the injuries “a distraction.”
“It’s nothing to be concerned about,” he said.
Simon likes the experience Bruce brings.
“We can’t keep going at this rate,” said Simon, B.C.’s leading receiver with 23 catches for 402 yards and a touchdown.
“You bring in a good player of his caliber, he is going to help us get better. He’s going to take a little burden off me as far as leadership. He’s a heck of a competitor and I think that’s going to help us.”
Among the receivers the Lions have used this year are second-year players Shawn Gore and Akeem Foster, plus rookies Dobson Collins and Nick Moore.
Gore, Dobson and Moore are all guilty of dropping catchable passes that could have resulted in touchdowns or keeping drives alive.
Bruce is looking forward to working with Simon. The two were teammates in Winnipeg back in 2002.
“As a receiver of my calibre, to play with a guy like Geroy Simon, it’s going to elevate my game,” said Bruce. “He’s a complete receiver.
“I think I will be able to learn something from him.”
The fact Hamilton gave Bruce up so quickly, for so little, might suggest some friction.
Not so, said Bruce.
“My two seasons here, I have no complaints,” he said. “Coach (Marcel) Bellefuille is a great man.
“The players in the locker-room I have no problem. It (being traded) is part of the business.”
Bruce can be a bit eccentric.
He raised eyebrows when he had the letters “RETH” taped over the nameplate on the back of his practice jersey. In a tweet, Bruce wrote: “i took that slave name off my back … Google me RUNAKO RETH.”
A Google search of “Runako Reth” provided a website for Hunid Racks, which provided energy drinks. It also featured numerous photos of Bruce.
Bruce laughed when asked what name will be on his Lions’ jersey.
“Hopefully coach Wally Buono won’t give me a hard time,” he said. “If Bruce is on there, that is fine too.”
Bruce butted heads with former Toronto Argonauts head coach Bart Andrus. He didn’t help his cause when he shed his helmet, shoulder pads and uniform after a touchdown catch, then lying down in the end zone in a mock tribute to the late Michael Jackson.
He was later traded to Hamilton.
Lions defensive back Korey Banks said Bruce’s personality won’t be an issue.
“You have to have multiple personalities on one team,” said Banks. “You can’t have just one. If everybody is the same you are going to have a lot of problems.
“He’s no worse than guys we have here. Let him be himself.”
Bruce has played 146 career games over 11 CFL seasons with Winnipeg, Toronto and Hamilton. He has 611 career receptions for 9,416 yards and 76 touchdowns.
In 34 games with the Ticats, Bruce had 169 catches for 2,450 yards and 17 touchdowns.
Bruce had a stellar 2010 campaign, finishing third overall in receiving with 86 catches for 1,303 yards and eight TDs in helping Hamilton post a 9-9 record and end up second in the East Division standings.
He spent five seasons with the Argos and helped the team capture the 2004 Grey Cup. Bruce spent 2003 with the San Francisco 49ers of the NFL.
The Lions and Ticats had been talking trade of late but it was more for receiver Maurice Mann, who has missed the last two games with a foot injury, as well as receiver/returner Marquay McDaniel.
Bruce said it’s way too early for the Lions to give up on the season.
“I have been on a team that is 1-6,” he said. “It happens in pro sports but things can change. Things can turn around.”