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Lemon aids in rebuild of B.C. Lions DL

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Shawn Lemon is living in a world where nothing is ever as good as it is at present, so it may come as a surprise to him that he is not the loudest player ever to suit up for the B.C. Lions.

It’s quite clear that on a team with Odell Willis he’s not even the loudest on the defensive front. And in terms of importance it is precisely the opposite of what they are trying to fix as the Lions return from their bye week Saturday with the daunting task of being the first team to defeat the Calgary Stampeders.

If it’s real smack the two want to talk, they can look back at a time when the Lions actually backed up their bravado in the days leading up to games with Calgary in the latter part of the previous decade.

Back then, players like Korey Banks would go looking for targets as a means to raise his own play, or when Lions practices involving Paris Jackson were verbal slugfests, not to mention quite comedic.

It is an extremely long way from where the Lions are at present, where smack doesn’t work when a 2-3 team is searching for solutions against a 6-0 opponent, playing in a place where they are 1-4 in their last five regular season meetings and been soundly overmatched.

They are tasked with continuing the rebuilding effort that continued last week with the acquisition of Lemon, a starter obtained from the Toronto Argonauts for the relatively low asking price of a player off Ed Hervey’s negotiation list. Word is Toronto asked for Gabe Knapton but the Lions GM held his ground.

It means the Lions have two of the most outgoing defensive ends in the CFL these days when the question that needs to be asked is whether the pair can be productive, and whether Hervey’s team can use the deal to juggle its ratio.

But in a microwave world, nothing is as important as why Lemon chose his new Lions uniform number (9) to play as a bookend to Willis (11) because no sooner as he explained his choice when a video surfaced online in explanation.

“It just kind of fit. Me and Odell were just having a little fun with it…9-11, paramedics are on the way,” Lemon said.

Lemon isn’t as much of a smack-talker as he is a purveyor of social media, admitting he has taken to Twitter previously to express a point of view when it has not been accurately expressed.

Among Lemon’s best exchanges over his eight years in the league was to express his delight at seeing a former employer, Ottawa general manager Marcel Desjardins, get run over on the sidelines by Chris Rainey, or when he famously derided the decision by an ex-teammate, Derek Dennis, to sign in Saskatchewan.

“Congrats on making the biggest mistake of your life,” Lemon wrote.

All in fun, he says now.

“Our league is a fan-friendly league, so why not give fans another access to you to communicate with them on platforms so they understand how you feel about certain topics. It gives you a different avenue,” said Lemon. “I love social media.”

Lemon is definitely social. Among those he consulted after being shipped to the Lions, presumably to get a handle on life under Wally Buono, was Alouettes defensive coordinator Rich Stubler, a former position coach. Also, Toronto coach Marc Trestman, notable as the Argos had only sent him away days earlier.

No hard feelings, Lemon said. The current objective is to generate a pass rush and whether the Lions will examine different avenues with another established starter on the defensive roster.

When Solomon Elimimian was sidelined with his wrist injury, B.C. started nine Canadians in their 29-25 loss in Ottawa, a high during the Buono era. However, they started the week not with sophomore non-import Junior Luke in an interior spot but practice roster rookie import Claudell Louis, a clear sign the Lions might be inclined to commit to an all-American defensive front.

Willis, in fact, may be the only lineman to line up in Calgary in the same spot as the group that started in Ottawa, with the Lions contemplating different rotational roles for Knapton, David Menard, Davon Coleman and Lemon. Call it a bye-week rebuild.

“You’re going to get a natural pass rusher into the lineup,” defensive coordinator Mark Washington said of Lemon, who has two Grey Cup rings on his resume and played in the final game of the season three times in the past four seasons. “You’re going to get a guy who not only understands the game but knows how to set up (opposing) tackles. It’s always good when you get a chance to add a player like him.”

So the Lions are now louder, perhaps as noticeable at the position group for the first time since 2013 when they put up with Khalif Mitchell and his act to get results. Now it remains to be seen whether they are better.

LIONS TALES: The addition of Lemon has also altered the role of import Ivan McLennan, who wasn’t being used as part of the defensive end rotation and is now taking reps as a linebacker. In the same vein, Laval product Edward Godin, taken in the fifth round of the 2017 Canadian college draft as a defensive lineman, is now being groomed on the practice roster as a fullback… Also among the Lions roster moves during the bye week was the release of cornerback Marcell Young, whose claim to fame with the Lions likely will be the player who tried to knock some sense into a pantless fan parading on the field in the regular season opener. In a subsequent interview, Young suggested there was no followup from the incident after the fan had reportedly contacted a Vancouver law firm. There’s also been no suggestion his release had anything to do with the incident and was strictly a result of performance. .… Though the club has a medical report stating he suffered a torn ACL in the loss to Ottawa, Brandon Rutley hardly fit the part, doing lateral motion exercises on the sideline when the Lions returned to practice. Rutley will get a second opinion from his personal physician on the severity of the injury before committing to surgery, and will remain on the six-game injured list. Jeremiah Johnson (ankle) has returned to the first unit and will likely exchange roster positions at the end of the week with Travon Van, who was activated off the suspended list when Rutley was injured. Van had been tending to his ailing mother in San Diego since midway through training camp.

 

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About the author

Lowell Ullrich

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.

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