- Game Day
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As players and coaches walked off the field following the third day of the club’s offensive mini-camp you couldn’t help but feel a sense of anticipation for what lies ahead. The Leos will hit the turf in the friendly confines of Hillside Stadium for training camp in Kamloops one month from today and from all reports it can’t come soon enough.
Travis Lulay remains on schedule following off-season shoulder surgery and an effective three days of putting the offence through its paces. For the sixth-year Lion the late April workout was as much about familiarization with Khari Jones’ offence as it was about crisp throws, good mechanics and the next step in his return to the helm.
“Everything felt good with the shoulder and that’s pretty much the best news possible at this point,” said Lulay. “We’re about month to camp and two months to our first regular season game, so I expect things to keep progressing in the right direction. Overall, I feel very positive about where I am and where I’ll be down the road, so I’m just going to stick with the program that we’ve put in place.”
Also on the mend after the season ended was Emmanuel Arceneaux who showed absolutely no effects of the knee surgery he underwent this past winter.
“For me it’s a combination of a lot of things,” said Arceneaux who will remain in Vancouver until training camp opens. “I train at a very high level, I take my nutrition very seriously and I believe I’m very strong mentally. I chose to believe that the surgery would make me better long-term rather than cause me short-term pain. In the end, I’m here, I’m at full-speed and I’m not wearing a brace.”
Third year head coach Mike Benevides who had been counting down the days to the offensive camp was also very encouraged by what he saw over the three days.
“Obviously it looks good when you go against air,” admits Benevides. “What I’m evaluating at this point is where we are as an offense with regard to Khari’s playbook installation. Our guys were introduced to 80 different plays in a very short period of time and that’s a significant learning curve. What I saw was 30 guys extremely focused on the details.
He’ll also have decisions to make in some critical areas, perhaps none more critical than the offensive line.
“We’ve got some great potential here with our young Canadians which is huge,” notes Benevides. “As far as imports, Jovan remains one of the best tackles in our league, so at this point we’re looking to fill guys in around what we have now. We signed four new tackles for this camp and the scouting department will continue to see what’s out there, but I’m feeling very good about how it’s coming together.”
The proof will obviously come a month from now when the club assembles in training camp with another 10 or so new faces at various positions on offence that Wally Buono’s player personnel staff will add through free agent camps between now and June 1.
“The level of talent Wally and Neil are seeing right now is as good as it’s ever been,” says Benevides. “We’re not bringing in guys to simply take reps and give our current guys a rest here and there. These guys are going to push at every single position on offence and defence.”
For now, the countdown continues, refinements are made, meetings are held as the BC Lions march toward their 61st regular season.
“It was a great three days, but as a coach it’s hard to shift back into prep mode,” says Benevides. “The weather was outstanding, the guys were jacked-up and now we have to wait to get out there again.”