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Regina, Sask- In one corner you had Chris Rainey playing Ping-Pong with REDBLACKS’ receiver Dionte Spencer. In another there was Solomon Elimimian and Manny Arceneaux taking part in an intense Madden tournament with the likes of Stampeders’ QB Bo Levi Mitchell and Almondo Sewell of the Eskimos.
There was a barber station in another area of the room. As you can imagine, the players had some fun with that one on social media. Arceneaux and Winnipeg’s Taylor Loffler were even laughing it up, the big end zone hit by the UBC product on Manny in last November’s Western Semi-Final long since forgotten.
Overall, it was just a grand old time.
We’re talking about the ADIDAS players’ lounge at Mark’s CFL Week in Regina: a retreat where 50 or so of the league’s biggest stars were kicking back, eating and enjoying some fun in between various TSN and league photo shoots. The off- field brotherhood amongst competitors is truly one of the many things that make this league so unique.
Bryan Burnham agrees with that notion. “It has kind of exceeded my expectations,” said the speedy receiver about this new extravaganza.
“You really get to see who people are outside of football and we realize we all have the same goal in mind. We can be friends at events like this, but come game time we’re obviously going to be competitors. It’s nice to know who you are competing against and kind of have some friends out there.”
The TSN action shots, a very compelling set of visuals we might add, are just a couple pieces to the puzzle.
— BC Lions (@BCLions) March 21, 2017
For some of the guys, it for sure gets them in “game mode” with camp only two months away.
Over the next couple of days, players from around the league will take part in autograph sessions, fulfill media obligations and mingle with fans from around the league. Think of it as like a mini-Grey Cup week in late March.
Seven-year veteran Elimimian feels the festivities are perfect for feeding passion for the game in the offseason.
“It’s good to not only bond but get the branding out there,” said Elimimian. “I was there in Toronto last year for the new ADIDAS jersey shoots and told guys from other teams this was getting better every year.
“It’s a good feeling because the season is near. The goose bumps are coming as well as that competitive fire.”
On that competitive front, the three-time CFL Most Outstanding Defensive Player was in mid-season form when it came to the Madden tournament.
— BC Lions (@BCLions) March 22, 2017
“I didn’t allow Dionte Spencer or Almondo Sewell to score a point on me, let me establish that right now,” proclaimed Elimimian.
“Everybody is close around this league, “ added Rainey. “There are some guys who have maybe played everywhere. The Ping-Pong was fun. I hadn’t played much since college, but I still got it.”
Can we now expect the Lions’ equipment staff to be tasked with setting up a Ping-Pong table at the Surrey facility?
“Don’t know about that,” laughed Rainey. “I’m more of a billiards guy so maybe some pool.”
— BC Lions (@BCLions) March 21, 2017
“There are some great characters in this league, guys like Simoni (Lawrence) and (Shawn) Lemon, “ adds Burnham. “I like sticking with my own guys but today was good to branch out a bit.
Much has been said about how close this Lions team has become in the last couple of years. Consider the fact both Elimimian and Arceneaux are now spending most of their offseason at the facility. A 12-6 record in 2016- led by Wally Buono’s return to the sidelines- certainly helped as well. Chris Williams kept all of those factors in mind when he decided to join the already stacked receiving corps.
The speedster is in Regina this week as well, getting acquainted with his new ‘mates and also spending some quality times with old ones: like the outspoken Simoni Lawrence.
“He’s never at a loss for words,” proclaimed Williams.
After just a few hours with his new ‘mates, The New Mexico State product is even more excited for year one in orange.
“Seriously, is it June Yet? It was awesome to put the orange on for the first time. I took a ton of pictures and I am very much looking forward to putting it on for real and battling for you guys.”
Williams says he consulted with Ottawa teammate and former Lions’ receiver Ernest Jackson on moving to the West Coast and that also played a big role in his decision.
“He knew some of those guys,” added Williams. “This game is based on relationships and the guy that you’re lining up next to has your back. In this game if you don’t do stuff right, people get hurt.”
Chemistry is key. And it should be good league-wide thanks to a little Ping-Pong and Madden to unofficially kick off the season.
For any fans in Regina the remainder of this week, a schedule of events can be found right here:
BC Lions fans will find out Wednesday evening if Superman will indeed fly his most notable mission yet: Geroy Simon is on the ballot for 2017 Canadian Football Hall of Fame induction. The league’s all-time leading receiver has all of the right credentials. Stay tuned to BCLions.com and all of our social channels for any updates. Simon, Buono, Neil McEvoy and the rest of the brass are now in Regina for the national combine, which gets going on Thursday with the interview process. Testing and one on ones follow on Friday and Saturday.
Matt Baker: email@example.com