BC Lions mini-camp got under way today at the club’s training facility in Surrey on Thursday signalling the beginning of the end for the long CFL off-season. With the draft just around the corner, the Lions are wrapping up the last of their free agent camps as well, with the last stop in Seattle on Sunday, May 1st.
Let’s get caught up on recent developments in the CFL, and of course the BC Lions in this edition of the Lions Notebook.
Comprised of mainly first and second year players, the BC Lions hit the field in Surrey for OTA’s. With the exception of a few veterans, the club wants to use the two day sessions to evaluate what players will advance to main camp and also to have those players up to speed on the schemes the club wants to deploy. The idea is there would be less teaching at training camp and more working on systems.
Neither of the club’s top two QB’s are involved, and the Lions will try and determine the pecking order of the returning Greg McGhee and freshly signed Keith Price, formerly with Saskatchewan. Cam Tucker has written a good piece on that here.
Some of the more recognizable names on the roster are offensive linemen Hunter Steward and T-Dre Player. Steward is looking to rebound from two injuries in two seasons, both to the same foot. His promise as a player is huge, but he has to stay healthy this year. Player has seen time as a starter and as a backup in his first two seasons with the club, and the Lions would love to see him continue to evolve to provide national depth on the offensive line.
Linebacker Bo Lokombo is also in camp and after making great strides last season, he looks to make an even bigger contribution this year on the Lions defense as part of a linebacker group that includes the hard-hitting Solomon Elimimian and Adam Bighill. Lokombo is joined by free-agent national DB Mike Edem, who is also participating looking to get up to speed with his new club.
Speaking of Elimimian, Buono told reporters that judging by everything he’s seen and has been told, the CFL record holder for tackles in a season has recovered 100% from the ruptured Achilles tendon he suffered last season, which would be a quick recovery. Let’s hope that’s the case and Solly returns to terrorize CFL offences once again.
The first day of mini-camp also marked the official return of Wally Buono to field as head coach once again. Buono called it an ‘exciting’ day and Lowell Ullrich has some thoughts here.
On a negative note there is concern that highly touted off-season signing, running back Mikel Leshoure, was a no-show. No further information was provided by the club.
Of course, the Lions are also preparing for the 2016 CFL Canadian College Draft on May 10th. The Lions hold the third overall pick and Wally Buono has been quoted as saying it’s the deepest draft in recent memory.
Who the Lions will pick is anyone’s guess, and I certainly don’t have an informed opinion on who they should. But my hope is they lock in on a player who can help them right away, preferably on the offensive line, defensive line or receiver positions.
The Saskatchewan Roughriders are said to be considering offers for the number one pick, and Buono has moved up in the draft before. But if the draft is deep and with the Lions sitting with a good pick at three, I expect they will let the cards fall where they may and pick the best player left on their draft board.
Following the first round, the Lions will pick fourth in five of the next six rounds (Winnipeg forfeited their first rounder in the supplemental draft last year when they chose Garrett Waggoner) and don’t have a pick on the fifth round.
Back in Black?
Following a teaser video and some still shots that surfaced this week, it appears that the Lions will indeed returning to black as a prominent colour in their new Adidas uniforms. The official unveiling for all teams will be held at an event in Montreal on May 12th.
But is the uniform black? After further analysis of the video the club released there is an orange tinge on the player’s body as he emerges from the shadows. The shoulders and pants are definitely black and the helmet is believed to be as well.
The suspense is real!
General consensus from those that have seen the new threads is that the Lions have a pretty sharp new look. Shawn Lemon of the Saskatchewan Roughriders, who has seen all the new jerseys had this to say about the Lions new look.
“B.C. won. B.C. by far has the best uniforms. They’re slick. They’re nice.”
Here is the teaser video the Lions released, so you can make your own assumptions.
Finally, the CFL announced new initiatives in regards to player safety on Thursday. The league has put more emphasis on the effect of concussions, assigning an ‘injury’ spotter for every league game, continuing to take part in new testing and research and will give players the option of seeing an independent doctor with concussion in cases if they are diagnosed with a concussion.
Player safety, especially surrounding concussions is becoming more and more of an issue, not only in football, but all contact sports. It’s nice to see the CFL taking steps to make sure the game is as safe as possible for its players.