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January 23, 2019

Back To Work | A Look At Some Key Dates In 2019

With the holiday and New Years celebrations now firmly in the rearview mirror, GM Ed Hervey, head coach DeVone Claybrooks and the rest of the football operations staff has already set the wheels in motion for building a Grey Cup contending squad in 2019. With many questions remaining as far as the roster goes, they will rely on some upcoming key dates to help fill the necessary holes and bring the Lions franchise back to prominence. Below is a look at some important dates on the heels of GM meetings in Mont-Tremblant, Quebec.

Head coach DeVone Claybrooks chats with TSN’s Dave Naylor during CFL meetings in Mont-Tremblant, Quebec. Photo: Graham Hughes, CFL.ca

January 12-13: Mexico Combine

As part of commissioner Randy Ambrosie’s quest to grow the league outside of Canadian borders and the letter of intent he signed with Mexico’s League de Futbol Americano Professional (LFA) during last year’s Grey Cup week, the two leagues will work together at a 45-player combine at Mexico City’s Estadio Azul on Saturday. Each team will then draft two players from the combine to add to their respective rosters. The Lions brought Mexican placekicker Jose Maltos (below) to training camo in 2018.

February 12: Free Agency Opens

Last year saw no less than 15 new players added in the first ten days of free agent frenzy. With upwards of 35 current players needing new deals for 2019, there will surely be plenty of new faces yet again. Buckle up.

March 19-20: Rules Committee & Football Operations Meetings, Toronto

It remains to be seen what, if any, changes come about from the annual rules discussions among the league’s Board of Governors. The biggest development from last year’s meetings was the elimination of illegal contact on a receiver from the list of what coaches could challenge.

March 22-24: CFL Combine, Toronto

The top draft prospects will be on display in front of the brass of all nine clubs in Toronto. Unlike the previous two years, this event will not be held in conjunction with Mark’s CFL Week. The popular event has been cancelled due to uncertainty surrounding CBA negotiations.

May 2: CFL Draft

As of now, the Lions aren’t on the clock until pick number 24 in round three. Hervey traded his 2019 first rounder to Winnipeg for the seventh overall selection (Julien Laurent) and 16th overall selection ( David Mackie) in 2018. The Lions traded their second round pick (13th overall) to Montreal for running back Tyrell Sutton in October.

Rolly Lumbala (46) remains the Lions longest-serving player after being selected in the second round (ninth overall) of the 2008 CFL DrAFT. (Photo: Johany Jutras)

May 14-16: Mini-Camp, Surrey Facility

In a tweak from the previous few seasons, the club will not hold an OTA in April, instead opting to have select players engage in on-field workouts at the facility just prior to departing for main camp just two days later.

May 18: Training Camp Begins, Hillside Stadium

All players and staff report to Kamloops with the first on-field activities taking place the following morning. How will the squad look in terms of player personnel? That will be determined over the next several weeks.

May 26: Pre-season begins in Edmonton

The first game action takes place in the Alberta capital where the Lions have not visited in pre-season since the 2014 season. A chance to set the early tone in the West? Not likely. For Claybrooks and his staff, it will be about evaluating what no doubt will be somewhat of a new-look roster.

June 5: Training Camp Breaks

It’s never easy to say goodbye to the sweltering heat and beautiful scenery Thompson Rivers University has to offer, but departing Kamloops always comes with a sense of accomplishment and reminder that everybody in the CFL enters a new season at 0-0.

June 15: Regular Season Opener, BC Place

A nice scenario to kick off the 66th regular season in BC Lions history. With quarterback Matt Nichols and the always dangerous Andrew Harris already signed for 2019, the Bombers likely view themselves as an early Grey Cup favourite. A perfect test for the Claybrooks era in his long-anticipated regular season debut as a head coach.

VANCOUVER, BC – JULY 14: The Winnipeg Blue Bombers play the BC Lions in their CFL game July 14, 2018 at BC Place in Vancouver, BC. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/BC Lions)

November 24th: 107th Grey Cup, Calgary

McMahon Stadium hosts Canada’s biggest football showdown for just the fifth time and first since 2009. The Lions were victorious in the 2000 Grey Cup in that venue, edging the Montreal Alouettes 28-26 in a thrilling nailbiter to cap off a great Cinderella November run. Might this prove to be a ‘homecoming’ for Claybrooks? What a great storyline that would be…..

Matt Baker: mbaker@bclions.com