There is a slight sense of defiance in the voice of one of the newest members of the B.C. Lions that helps to explain what the CFL team has done lately to reshape its practice roster and why players elect to continue the pursuit of a goal.
First-year defensive back Chandler Fenner is back to take another shot at securing employment from a team that only a month ago suggested he wasn’t good enough, mindful of what he was told in high school.
“My p.e. teacher put up the numbers saying there’s less than one per-cent are going to make it to the professional stage. I remember being upset about that. I remember saying ‘I’m in that less than one percentage.’ Nobody likes to be told what you can’t do,” Fenner said Monday.
Even fewer people who have been told they can’t play for the Lions or any other team usually agree to come back. But whether it’s simply out of need for players who have an understanding of their culture or a change in thinking by the team led by Wally Buono, the Lions have adjusted their approach.
That means Fenner, who didn’t look out of place at training camp this year after a handful of NFL stops, is back with a spot on the practice roster. So is defensive back Anthony Gaitor, whose return is even more surprising given that he reportedly had a heated debate with members of the Lions coaching staff prior to his release last month in Kamloops.
The season-ending injuries to T.J. Lee and Nick Moore have had a significant impact to the list of Lions reserves, not to mention their thinking as a whole. While Steven Clarke and Geraldo Boldewijn suddenly have starting roles, the list of backups has attacked the team’s depth unlike some seasons in the past, especially in only the second month of the football calendar year.
Only four players, defensive linemen Andrew Hudson and George Uko, along with draft pick receivers Shaq Johnson and Brett Blaszko, have yet to make it into a game in the regular season. Some years, the list of players willing to spend the entire season on the practice roster for $1000 weekly is twice as long.
To reshape their reserve list, the Lions cut four players over the weekend, tailback J.C. Coleman, receiver Devonn Brown, defensive lineman Kache Palacio and UBC draft pick Boyd Richardson, who was dropped from the practice roster for a second time. To complete the 10-man list, the Lions added import offensive lineman Kelvin Palmer (Baylor).
The change isn’t a sign that Buono has gone soft in his latest coaching tenure but simply a need to have proper depth as a result of season-ending injuries to a pair of starters. With the loss of Moore, who signed a one-year deal with the idea of cashing in on free agency next season, next up in the import receiving bullpen is Demaris Johnson, a replacement for Brown on the practice roster.
“We needed to change body types,” Buono said before practice. And in increasing numbers, players who have already been told they aren’t good enough once previously by the Lions aren’t getting in a snit when offered a second chance.
“You understand you have to separate the business and personal part. You keep going,” said Gaitor, who has had three NFL tryouts, including a callback with Tampa Bay.
You keep fighting, all in an attempt to try to beat the odds one teammate heard about in school.