VANCOUVER — The BC Lions entered some uncharted waters last week with the announcement of a three-day mini-camp that starts today and goes until Thursday. It’s the first time the Lions have taken advantage of an off-season workout period under the CFL’s collective bargaining agreement which was renewed in 2010.
“We’ll see how we benefit down the road, but I can’t see it doing anything but benefitting us,” said Lions head coach Mike Benevides. “Dennis Skulsky and Wally Buono do everything they can to help us succeed and this is evidence of that support. I can’t tell you what it means to our coaching staff to have this opportunity seven weeks out from training camp.”
Indeed the logistics behind the camp are more than just having 20 guys show up for meetings and running routes.
“We’ve got flights, accommodations and meals that are all part of the camp,” notes Lions personnel coordinator Neil McEvoy. “It’s an investment in football operations and it’s an investment in our players.”
It’s also no small effort for McEvoy as he coordinates both mini-camp while also planning his and Buono’s free agent camps in Florida and Georgia this weekend. “It’s busy, but you can’t ask for anything better in April,” beams McEvoy.
Since the Lions benefit from an easier winter than their seven league rivals, a significant number of players reside here in the off-season. Quarterback Travis Lulay, receivers Shawn Gore, Akeem Foster, Marco Iannuzzi and Paris Jackson can pretty much meet up when their respective schedules allow them to do so.
Same goes for fullback Rolly Lumbala and Courtney Taylor who resides in the Seattle area, but the Lions will welcome the opportunity to have pass grabbers Nick Moore, Justin Harper along with running back Andrew Harris in town to begin the process of installing the 2013 offence.
“I think this is going to be something we look back on in training camp and realize how far we pushed the learning curve,” said Lulay. “Usually you’re introducing yourself to at least 10 new guys before you even hit the field in Kamloops, and this camp should have us on the same page come June 2nd. It’s on us as players to take advantage of these opportunities and my sense is that the guys are very excited to get back on the field.”
Lulay heads-up a four-man quarterback roster which added the arm of Rudy Carpenter earlier in the week. The former Arizona State Sun Devil had a remarkable college career, but he saw limited duty over four years in the NFL.
“Rudy will be on a steep learning curve, but he’s been in a professional environment for the past four years and we’re confident he’s going to come in and compete,” said Benevides. “He started every game from his first day on campus at Arizona State and that kind of confidence is something he’ll have to lean on as he adjusts to the nuances of our game.”
The Lions also began the post-Geroy Simon era of their offence, something Lulay says will be a challenge that his receivers are ready to face head-on.
“I think anytime you have to replace a guy like Geroy it’s going to be interesting,” admits Lulay. “He was a fabulous player and an obvious future hall of famer, but I also believe we saw some good things from our receivers last year when Geroy and Arland Bruce were out with injuries. We not only won those games, we won them with everyone contributing so it’s not like we’re looking at a roster of unknowns.”
More than two months separate the BC Lions from their final cut down day in June as they look to capture the Grey Cup for a seventh time, but for Benevides the thought of playing in the 101st Grey Cup Regina come November has been eating at him for months.
“If we learned anything from last year it’s that you have to find another level of commitment and performance in the playoffs. We simply didn’t do that last November and everything in our in our offseason planning has centred on finding and extracting that elevated commitment from our players. This mini-camp is step one.”