February 13, 2020

“We Want Guys That Want To Commit.” | Hervey, Campbell Excited For Additions

They have addressed major needs on both sides of the line of scrimmage, brought back a familiar face in the return game and could still be in play for one of the league’s top playmakers at receiver before all is said and done. When you consider it all, both GM Ed Hervey and head coach Rick Campbell are feeling a lot better about the BC Lions roster compared to last week when it was all still in the planning stages.

Campbell has been down this road before. As the first head coach in Ottawa RedBlacks history, he went from 2-14 in year one to a Grey Cup champion by the end of year three. A quicker turnaround in his new gig on the west coast is never out of the question. Yet it would be a lot harder if he and Hervey didn’t come away with the haul of players that they have so far.

“I’ll stick to my story that there is a good core group of players here already that we’re here,” said Campbell inside the TELUS media centre on Thursday.

“However you finish the year, whether you’re out of the playoffs or you win the Grey Cup, you always have to seek out good players every year and I think we did that. I think we got some really good d-lineman that can help. We got some really good special teamers, some athletic guys that can play in space. I think the name of the game on special teams is you need some tough guys but also some athletic guys that can run.”

The special teams aspect of it is also very intriguing. Chris Rainey, the club’s all-time leader in kickoff return yards, was the first addition announced by the squad just after 9 AM on Tuesday. He, of course, landed in Toronto after testing the market last season. Now the brass is intrigued if he can revert back to the form he previously showed in orange and black.

“When we discussed it, it was a must-have,” stated Hervey on the Rainey addition.

“His availability was there for us and if the numbers would fit, we could make it happen. He’s experienced and we know what he’s capable of. I know some say he’s a bit older now but there’s still a lot left in the tank, he’s familiar with this city, he’s familiar with this team, we’re familiar with him and an experienced returner can go a long way; especially in training camp and the early part of the season. He has that capability and we’ll see what happens in camp with the competition that we bring in.”

Added Campbell: “If he got 100 yards in punt returns, that’s ten first downs. It helps the offence ad it helps the defence because if he’s a guy that can flip field position it makes us all look better.”

When talking to both men about the additions on the offensive and defensive lines, you could hardly keep them from smiling. Campbell was with J.R. Tavai in Ottawa for the past two seasons and served as Micah Johnson’s defensive coordinator in Calgary for the player’s rookie season of 2013. Chris Casher should fit in nicely at defensive end opposite Jonathan Newsome, while Ryan Jones and Cameron Walker will be counted on as rotational interior guys.

“It’s definitely got potential,” chuckled the head coach on his new-look pass rush.

“We talked about Micah, he’s obviously a huge impact player. I had the opportunity to coach him in Calgary, so I know him. Casher is a big athletic guy, he’s got really good length to him. J.R. is only going to get better, I think he’s really figured this league out now. He was a role player at first and was playing a lot of special teams. I think he’s ready to take that next step and become a full-time pass rusher here and do some really good things. I know there’s going to be some competition. When there is competition in camp, that’s a good thing.”

Photo: Matt Smith

Competition indeed brings out the best in everyone. Hervey couldn’t say enough things about the addition of Johnson and how every player on the defensive line will have become better with him on their side. The addition of Johnson was something he had coveted all throughout last week’s window to negotiate pending free agents from other teams. What Hervey can also be happy about is Johnson buying into what the other veterans on this team are preaching about continuity.

“We’re of the belief that we want guys that we want guys that want to commit and be here long-term.”

GM Ed Hervey

“Getting T.J. (Lee) for a couple of years, Petey (Garry Peters) for a couple of years (Aaron) Grymes and Ryker Mathews, who we had a chance to speak to over the phone, he’s signed for two years. Guys are looking at this opportunity in BC as adding to the continuity that we have but also seeing a golden opportunity to find a home,” added Hervey.”

As for Mathews, an East Division All-Star selection with Hamilton in 2019, both the GM and head coach spoke highly of his versatility and the fact he can play both tackle positions if called upon. Like the organization learned the hard way, keeping quarterback Mike Reilly upright is a very important task.

Any way you slice it, the additions made this week will go a long way in putting the club back on the winning path.

Chris Rainey returns a punt 79 yards for a touchdown against the Edmonton Eskimos on August 9th, 2018. Photo: David Friederich.

Walking The Walk? Big Fish Still Swimming In Free Agent Waters

TSN’s Farhan Lalji opened Thursday’s media session by asking what many observers are clamouring to know: Where do things stand with free agent wide receiver Derel Walker? With Walker still looking for a contract and the Lions reportedly acting as one of the league’s more aggressive suitors, Hervey spoke about that process and says Walker would be a similar type of addition as Micah Johnson.

“Make no mistake, Derel Walker presents the same type of impact on the offensive side of the ball,” explained Hervey.

“He and Mike have a really good relationship, they have a lot of chemistry on the field and we’re going to exhaust all options to make this football team as good as we possibly can.”

As for the inevitable question of how the salary cap possibly stands in the way of a reunion with Reilly, Hervey said:

“You always look at how to make it work until we can’t. If it doesn’t work, then that becomes a reality. Until we know what the number is, we’re open to seeing.”

A two-time CFL All-Star, Walker established himself as one of the league’s most dynamic receivers when he teamed up with Reilly from 2015-18. He would post back-to-back seasons of over 1,000 yards before earning a contract with the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers to start 2017. He would wind up back in Edmonton before landing with the Toronto Argonauts last season where he posted a third 1,000-yard plus season.

For now, the brass will revel in the guys who are here.

Matt Baker: