Columbus Lions have chance to put roster in order, relax during bye weeks

Don't play again until April 6

Special to the Ledger-EnquirerMarch 24, 2013 

It's been a week since the Columbus Lions dropped a 40-37 decision to the Albany Panthers on a last-second field goal, and it's going to be another two weeks until their next game, which comes April 6 against the Alabama Hammers in Huntsville, Ala.

After a March 18 practice was cut short due to bad weather that swept through the area, Lions coach Jason Gibson sent his players their separate ways until Wednesday, when they'll resume practice. However, Gibson and his assistants aren't taking a vacation, or even much time off, while their players recharge their batteries.

"We're going to start preparing for Alabama," said Gibson earlier this week. "We may go and see (Alabama) play at Albany (the teams played Saturday night), but we're not sure about that. With two weeks off in a row, even with the time we're giving them off, there's a danger of overcoaching. We don't need to reinvent the wheel to be successful, but we do need to make sure that we're ready."

One positive about the long gap between games was that the Lions will be able to make any personnel changes Gibson deems necessary.

The moves started March 18, when the Lions released quarterback Garrett Sutphen and defensive linemen Haywood Howard and D.J. Chappell.

Sutphen won the starting job in preseason camp, but was only 11-for-25 for 147 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions in one-plus game before a solid performance by Marcus Jones against Albany along with the presence of wide receiver Earl Alexander -- who can double as a No. 2 quarterback -- made him expendable.

Howard and Chappell both played one game for the Lions, with Howard recording two solo tackles and Chappell finshing with one solo stop.

The roster overhaul continued March 21, when the Lions activated fullback/linebacker Paul Bennett, defensive lineman Lawon Scott and defensive back Cortez Stubbs from the exempt list, meaning the Lions held their PIFL rights but they didn't count against the 27-man roster limit.

Stubbs was promptly traded to the Knoxville Nighthawks for future considerations -- an indication Gibson is fairly happy with his current crop of defensive backs -- while Bennett may not return to the Lions due to his receiving a free-agent tryout with the Kansas City Chiefs this week.

Scott is expected to contribute on the defensive line, an area of concern due to several early-season injuries that contributed to the Lions having no sacks or forcing any turnovers against Albany.

"These bye weeks will allow us to bring in anybody we need to bring in," said Gibson. "We're not looking for players at any certain positions, but we're going to check the (Arena Football League) cut lists and grade out our players. If someone else is better out there, we have to give them a look. However, we've got 24 players on our roster (the league limit is 27) and I really don't want that many. We may be cutting down even more."

With two games in the books and 10 still to go, Gibson said his team is off to a solid start this season.

"We're in a lot better spot than we were after two games last year," said Gibson. "We couldn't stop anybody last year and this year, our defense has definitely shown it can stop people. Offensively, we can score as many touchdowns as anybody in the league. We've scored on 80 percent of our possessions, so there's not much else you can ask for."

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