55 Yard Line - CFL

In a surprising twist, the B.C. Lions released quarterback Casey Printers today. This is the guy who they brought back late in the season last year to add depth, promoted to starter for the stretch run and the playoffs, and was their opening-day starter this season, so it's a bit unusual to see him suddenly cut adrift. That's made even more curious when you consider that he played out the stretch in Monday's loss to Winnipeg after Travis Lulay sustained an injury. His performance certainly wasn't impressive (four completions on seven attempts for 38 yards and a game-sealing interception on the second overtime series), and the outlook was brilliant for the B.C. twelve when he entered but turned muddy pretty quickly, but he's still the most recent quarterback to take a snap for the Lions.

However, this might just be the right move. Printers certainly has talent, but he hasn't demonstrated much of it this season. He was impressive in B.C. last season, coming from not playing football to the Lions' practice squad to starting in a matter of weeks and completing 43 of 68 passes for 686 yards and three touchdowns while being picked off twice, earning a quarterback rating of 99.3 in the process. He also picked up 58 yards on 10 rushing attempts. Heading into this year, there was plenty of reason to think he could improve on that already-solid performance given a full training camp and preseason schedule to further adjust to the team. Hope springs eternal in the human breast, after all.

There was ease in Casey's manner when he stepped under centre this year, but instead of improving, he regressed. This season, he only completed 129 of his 237 passing attempts. A 54.4 per cent completion percentage isn't going to keep you employed in the CFL very long, and Printers' completion percentage was by far the worst among quarterbacks with at least 100 passing attempts. Curiously, it was better than the 54.2 percentage put up by Jarious Jackson, who remains employed as the Lions' backup, but that carries the disclaimer of small sample size (Jackson has only thrown 48 passes this year).

Printers has outperformed Jackson this year (he also has 10 touchdowns to six interceptions, compared to Jackson's three interceptions), but it's understandable why the Lions chose to cut him loose instead. In his time in the CFL, Jackson has gone from starter to backup and back again numerous times, and he's proven that he can be a valuable supporting piece when needed. By contrast, Printers has never been particularly successful as a backup. Sure, he mostly said the right things about supporting the team when Wally Buono elected to bench him in favour of Lulay, but it was easy to see him chafing at the bit just on the occasional camera shots TSN displayed during the Lions' last few games. Instead of offering support from the sidelines, he stood watching in haughty grandeur.

More telling than anything might have been Printers' reaction to the way Monday's game ended, though. He made a bad read, overlooked an open receiver and threw a pass that was intercepted for the winning touchdown, then followed that up by ripping off his helmet, violently pounding it on the ground and yelling at his teammates with his teeth clenched in hate. You can see the play at 7:10 of this video, and Printers' reaction at 7:44:

Far more than ten thousand eyes were on Printers yesterday; the crowd of 25,016, the national television audience and viewers of sports highlight shows all caught his embarrassing reaction, and it seemed symbolic of the Lions' year. Here's what Mike Beamish of The Vancouver Sun wrote about the incident yesterday:

"Casey Printers became emblematic of the turbulent, out-of-control emotions of the B.C. Lions on Monday in Winnipeg when the quarterback ripped off his helmet, flung it to the ground and began berating wide receiver O'Neil Wilson after tossing a game-ending interception in the unfathomable 47-35 overtime loss to the Blue Bombers.

Adrenalin and fury carried Printer to an appalling demonstration of disrespect against a teammate and seemed to contradict his newfound personal axiom ‘that it's all about the team.' Bad enough, but the indelible image was captured by the vigilant TSN cameras, rerun with monotony on sportscasts and captured for posterity.

‘It was tough,' Printers said cryptically. ‘What else can you say? It was tough. I was asked to do what I was asked to do and that was to execute the game [plan]. We had our chances.'

Printers might have an easier time trying to repair his career than the image left from that incident, although both are in need of work."

That play, and Printers' reaction to it, was one of the examples Beamish's Sun colleague Cam Cole cited in a column about the Lions' players' recent lack of discipline and common sense, and with good reason. More than anything else to this point, it suggested that Printers' team-first talk was just that. When asked about his role, he's generally stilled the rising tumult and bade the game go on, but it's one thing to say you're all about the team; it's something quite different to blame others for your shortcomings and refuse to take responsibility for your actions.

If this was a one-off incident, it might have been more easily overlooked by the Lions, but it's just the latest self-focused move Printers has made. His scornful looks aren't awing audiences, and with a tough battle for the playoffs on their hands, B.C. can't afford to be worrying about satisfying individual egos. Printers' dismissal might also be a powerful signal to the team's other players that they'd better shape up or get shipped out. This wasn't an easy move for the Lions to make, but from this corner, it looks like the right one.

Is this the end of the line for Printers? It's tough to fathom another CFL team giving him a shot at the moment, considering his poor play this season and his historical difficulties fitting into a backup role. It's also the second time in two years that he's been released by a CFL team. That's quite the change for a man who won the league's 2004 Most Outstanding Player award, but he's never quite been able to find that form again. There was a smile on his face when he returned to the Lions last year, and defiance has certainly gleamed in his eye, but it's a sad turn of events that there might actually be some joy in B.C. now mighty Casey has struck out.

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