Thumbs-up from Lions on another eye in the sky

There isn’t anyone who has so much as even looked at a pair of shoulder pads who would protest a safety improvement, which is why a move announced by the CFL this week drew a thumbs-up from the B.C. Lions as their aptly-named mini-camp concluded.

That’s still saying something, because the primary measure announced by the league could allow for a new Toronto-based command centre operative to pull a player off the field if it is deemed he may require medical attention.

The league and CFL Players Association agreed to another series of improvements at a time when concussions are top of mind on the field and in the courtroom. The most-injured Lions starter the last two seasons, offensive lineman Hunter Steward (above), is all for anything that will keep a career going.

“In the moment you might not feel like you’re concussed but anything that’s geared to improve a player’s health is a good thing,” Steward said Friday.

Concussions aren’t a problem with Steward but foot injuries which have derailed each of his first two CFL seasons is another matter, which is partly why he was among the most tenured players on the field during the two days the Lions ran drills at their Surrey compound.

Another reason he volunteered for the minicamp is the position switch being contemplated that will result in potentially an all-new offensive line this year, coach/GM Wally Buono admitted.

Steward, Jovan Olafioye and Kirby Fabien are likely incumbents. But the Lions want Steward and Fabien at left and right guards respectively flanking veteran free agent pickup Tim O’Neill, with Olafioye possibly moving to left tackle to allow a smoother transition for another pickup, Levy Adcock, to play the right side. Want to chew on something with a month to go before training camp? Try that combination on for size.

If the thought that the league can now remove players is bothering its most decorated coach, it’s not showing on Buono, who like anyone in charge has already had to adjust and wait on field rulings from afar via challenges.

“I’m sure 99.9 per-cent of the time you’re not going to miss (an injury) but if that one-time someone catches it, I’m OK with it,” said the returning coach, who already is having to weigh other things like whether to rejoin the sideline this season wearing a headset during games, something he rejected previously.

“When you sit in these (safety) meetings you start to realize we have to adapt to technology. Sometimes technology is much further ahead than how we administer the game.”

LION TALES: There’s at least one good thing associated with running a smallish minicamp for the Lions. At this point they’re one of the few teams who won’t have to cut players, with 74 under contract heading into the May 10 Canadian college draft. B.C. can still make an addition depending on the outfall from this weekend’s NFL draft or the team’s final tryout camp this weekend in Seattle…. Ever the draft manipulator, Buono says he is not opposed to trading down in exchange for an extra pick or two before next month’s lottery, feeling he can still snare some much-needed offensive line depth lower in the opening round… If the minicamp proved anything, other than a new donut-shaped tackling dummy will be an instructional hit, it might be that new third-string quarterback Keith Price is currently a bit ahead of incumbent Greg McGhee. Others who drew notice of the Lions: WR Kendrick Ings, DBs Chandler Fenner and Qumain Black, DLs Darius Allen and Andrew Hudson.

Lowell Ullrich has covered the Lions since 1999 and was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2014. He is also a contributor to TSN1040.