Former Hardaway High standout Justen Rivers returns to Columbus Lions after being released for 'difference of opinion'

Special to the Ledger-EnquirerJune 1, 2012 

Sometimes you must put the good of the team ahead of your personal feelings.

That's why linebacker Justen Rivers, who was released by the Columbus Lions April 11 following "a difference of opinion" with the coaching staff, is back in a Columbus uniform and will play tonight, when the Lions (5-4) face the Louisiana Swashbucklers (4-5) in Lake Charles, La.

"We needed him," said Columbus coach Jason Gibson, whose team is in the final game of a three-game road swing. "What happened before is water under the bridge, and the point I needed to make was made. I need a leader on the defensive side of the ball, and he's it."

Gibson said the Lions' players weren't consulted before Rivers, a former Hardaway High standout, was re-signed.

Rivers had 12 total tackles in four games before being released and was one of three defensive newcomers added this week, along with defensive backs Ramon Broadway, who played at Arkansas, and Alan Strong, who started his college career at Vanderbilt before transferring to Fort Valley State.

"Both of those guys are fast," Gibson said. "We needed more speed in the sec

ondary, and we're trying to change our philosophy on defense so we made some moves. We needed to get more pressure, so we brought back Justen; and we needed more speed, so we brought in these guys."

One other roster move this week was the addition of backup quarterback Marcus Jones, who played quarterback, wide receiver and linebacker at Duke. Jones not only will be an insurance policy for starting quarterback Randy Hippeard but also will be featured in certain situations during games.

"We can't go into the playoffs with no backup quarterback," Gibson said. "The league has a roster freeze, so we needed to make sure we got a backup quarterback on the roster before then, and we did. Marcus is very athletic, smart, and he's made a lot of progress in the short time he's been here. We've got plans for him, but you probably won't see those plans this week."

The Lions feel fairly confident in their chances of making the Professional Indoor Football League playoffs, but Gibson said playing well tonight still is important.

"The trip to Louisiana (a nine-hour ride from Columbus) isn't the biggest problem with our game this week," said Gibson, whose team beat Louisiana 75-61 in Columbus on April 14. "Louisiana just plays well on their home field. If you win a game down there, you've done something. It's going to be a tough challenge. We've just got to get a couple of stops on defense. We have the top offense in the league. But offenses don't win championships, defense does. That's why we made these moves. Somebody once told me that pressure busts pipes, and we're wanting to put that pressure on, starting this week."

Notes: To listen to the game, go to the Lions' website at www.columbuslions.net and click on the "Listen Live" link on the right side of the home page. Coverage starts at 7:55 p.m. … Columbus has the top passing offense (268 yards/game) and total offense (279 ypg) but is last in the PIFL in total defense (280 ypg). … In other PIFL action tonight, Knoxville (1-8) is at Albany (8-1) and Richmond (7-2) goes to Alabama (2-7).

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