Camp preview: Suspended by the NFL, Alexander gets another chance with Lions

It is an efficient way of processing an assessment in a microwave society.

Fact: Frank Alexander is a three-time offender of the NFL’s substance policy.

Conclusion: There is no need to pay attention to someone with such an inglorious past and it is heresy for an upstanding organization like the B.C. Lions to give him the time of day.

There, judgment served. B.C. would be better off trying to improve its pass rush some other way.

So maybe there’s been a miscalculation, or a 27-year-old who has run out of chances thanks to three strikes with the Carolina Panthers has simply tricked the Lions into giving him a last chance.

Once in awhile, however, there is value to the spoken word, and the Lions are hoping what Alexander has said and done since stumbling is reason to believe in his reincarnation, for reasons beyond what he might do for their chances of success in the CFL season ahead.

It starts in almost-improbable fashion at the Lions’ rookie camp Thursday in Kamloops, where a player who already has qualified for his NFL pension will line up with fellow newcomers.

The Lions’ defence has been changed so dramatically during the winter there are opportunities galore, and for that reason alone it might be suggested they have no choice but to reach out to someone with a few extra lines on his resume.

They are not, however, giving another chance to some who is simply trouble.

“I’m not a drug addict,” he says, looking directly at his questioner. “I hope people don’t judge me off what the media is portraying. I’m a father to two beautiful daughters. I’m a son to my mother and father. We’re trying to figure out how to pay my debts and then pay for my sister to go to college and to keep up the house. When people say (negative things) it motivates me to prove them wrong.”

Of course, Alexander put himself in a position to be viewed differently when he ran afoul of  NFL policy through his use of marijuana. A lot of it, he said, was brought on over concern at the time about a mother who had to overcome breast cancer and a diabetic father who had to deal with a heart attack.

He was suspended initially for four games, sat out 10 more, then the entire 2016 season for violating the policy, a year made even more forgettable because he ripped up his Achilles. He does not, however, want your pity but merely understanding.

“I had a lot on my plate and I dealt with it the best I could,” he said.

A suggestion by his dad to join a church in Charlotte helped. So did buying a bike so he could add something to his relaxation ritual and clear his head. When he showed up at Lions’ mini-camp in April, marking the first time in nearly two years he had been at work on the field, he said he felt more liberated than at any time in the past.

It has been a struggle for a former fourth-round pick of the Panthers, having escaped a difficult development growing up outside of Baton Rouge, La., and it may not be over either. Alexander will have to gain the respect of coach/GM Wally Buono, who has been asked to assess both character and ability before.

In 2008, Buono was asked to determine if North Vancouver receiver Josh Boden was worthy of a second chance when charged with robbery and domestic assault. Boden didn’t re-sign with the Lions but did with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, which preceded a string of offences ranging from sexual assault to assaulting a police officer.

Khalif Mitchell also got a second chance from the Lions. It didn’t go well either, which is why it is impossible to note the irony associated with the fact Alexander wore Mitchell’s number at mini-camp and was assigned the same locker stall in Surrey.

Comparisons are easy. Alexander came to Canada for mini-camp around the same time the federal government began outlining its proposed policies for the legalization of marijuana, having left a country where medicinal use of the drug has been approved in several states.

But Buono seems willing to overlook what could represent trouble for the greater good of his defensive line, perhaps because no position group on his team has more room for improvement.

B.C. tied for the lead with 52 sacks last season but the Lions want more and seek remedies having let Canadian Jabar Westerman walk in free agency after watching Alex Bazzie leave for the NFL the same way.

Buono doesn’t want to rely on veterans Bryant Turner and Mich’ael Brooks solely for interior push. Also contesting spots once camp opens for real Sunday is free agent DeQuin Evans (ex-Montreal), along with practice roster holdover Andrew Hudson. Josh Shirley (UNLV), Luther Maddy (Virginia Tech), Kenneth Boatright (Illinois State) and Marquis Jackson (Portland State) are other newcomers.

It’s Alexander who provides the most intrigue on a team where change is going to be a theme, however. He lined up his 275-pound frame in the defensive interior at mini-camp but played off the edge in the NFL, so could work well in rotation with the Lions.

All he needs is a little time. His second/third/fourth chance is here.

“It’s like riding a horse. It doesn’t go away that easily. Football is natural for him,” Buono said of Alexander. “Yes, he’s going to get used to conditioning but you can tell he was an is a very good player. The thing I’m really impressed with is his attitude. He sees this is a good opportunity.”

And his past?

“If it say he got suspended for… whatever… we don’t even test for that here. As a country were going to legalize it soon,” said Buono. “Everything we’ve gotten is he’s a good guy.”

It appears the Lions aren’t about to judge this book by its cover.


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