Hair-raising idea: Lions adding returner

The player who unwittingly started a recent conversation about the acceptable length of hair in the CFL is being seen by the B.C. Lions as a potential catalyst for a wayward return game that needs someone to comb out the kinks.

Import Shakeir Ryan, 23, spent all of one day on the unemployment line, picked up by the Lions for their practice roster a day after he was released by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, coach Wally Buono confirmed.

Ryan arrived in Surrey Tuesday and pending a successful physical is expected to be on the field Wednesday, which may or may not put him in position to assume a roster spot for the Lions’ latest crucial game, against the 3-10 Toronto Argonauts at B.C. Place Stadium Saturday.

Ryan turned heads in his only CFL game for the Ticats, when he returned a punt 103 yards for a touchdown against Calgary. He also had his head turned rather violently in that game when he was tackled by his dreadlocks. That play led to a discussion as to whether tackling by the hair should be considered a penalty in a manner similar to a horse-collar tackle.

“I think what I will do now is maybe wrap it up or maybe braid it,” Ryan told the Toronto Sun at the time. “I know coach Nick Saban at Alabama, if you notice all the guys who have long hair, it’s underneath and braided and not all wild and stuff.”

What the Ticats also noticed was a fumble Ryan committed in the same game, which dropped his stock dramatically. But the Lions are trying to jump-start their return game and may choose eventually to replace Chris Rainey, who spent a week previously in coach Wally Buono’s doghouse and may be headed there again.

Rainey was benched for the Lions’ game Sept. 7 against Ottawa but since being returned to the lineup when Travon Van missed a chance to take away the job has averaged just 8.1 yards on 13 punt returns. The 30-year-old Rainey has been considered one of the fastest players in the league but the Lions have expressed concerns about the ability of the 5’8”, 180-pounder to stay on his feet.

Ryan spent the 2017 season on the practice roster of the Washington Redskins after failing to find work with the Los Angeles Rams.

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.