Earlier this season B.C. kick returner Tim Brown was forced to sit out a couple of games while the Lions tested someone else at his position.
For most players that would have created plenty of angst or shaken their confidence. Brown, who lives in California during the off-season where he works with autistic children, was able to keep things in perspective.
"You get up in the morning and thank G-d for allowing you to breathe and function normally," said the 28-year-old from Stockton, Calif., wearing his customary wide grin. "We all have problems and issues that we go through. Seeing those kids and seeing their issues, it's real."
The Lions have faced plenty of questions over their lack of a return game this CFL season. Brown supplied some answers Saturday by returning a kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown. That was the difference in BC's 26-22 victory over the Calgary Stampeders and helped Brown earn CFL Special Teams Player of the Week honours. BC and Calgary are now tied for second in the West.
The Lions' coaching staff could supply complicated analytical explanations on the blocking schemes and procedures that made the return a success. Brown kept things simple.
"I just saw guys blocking," he said. "I just did the best to run on guys butts and get into the end zone."
Sounds simple enough. But it was the first time a Lion had returned a kickoff for a touchdown since Yonus Davis ran 88 yards for a major against the Edmonton Eskimos on July 30, 2010. Brown did return two punts for touchdowns last season, the last a 56-yard romp against Calgary in a 41-21 loss to the Stampeders Oct. 26.
Maybe it was the Lions' spiffy new black stealth uniforms but Brown finished Saturday's game with four kickoff returns for 140 yards. He ran back nine punts for 72 yards.
"I really didn't feel any pressure," he said. "It's a team thing.
"I can't do it without the guys in front of me and they know it. I think we really have been improving the last couple of games on kickoff and punt returns."
Even with Brown's performance against Calgary the Lions are ranked second last in the CFL with 564 kickoff return yards. Their total of 218 punt return yards is just one yard ahead of Toronto and Hamilton, who are tied for last.
Chuck McMann, BC's special teams coordinator, said the team has come close to breaking a big return several times this year but have fallen victim to a missed assignment or taken a penalty.
"We have been working so hard," said McMann. "Tim has been studying so much film.
"Finally we were able to get something for him. I don't know of a returner I have dealt with that works as hard as he does."
Head coach Mike Benevides said Browns' touchdown has removed some pressure from the return team. He expects more improvement when the Lions play the Alouettes Thursday in Montreal.
"They have been working extremely hard and getting a lot of criticism," said Benevides.