EDMONTON — Khalif Mitchell’s off-season appears to have taken another strange turn. On Thursday, Mitchell told Sportsnet he would not report to the Toronto Argonauts‘ training camp, after the team had traded for him on April 2 in a deal with the B.C. Lions.
Mitchell couldn’t have said it any more concisely.
“I’m not going to Toronto,” he said to Sportsnet. “I’ve already made up my mind, I’m not going to Toronto.”
TSN spoke with Mitchell’s adviser, Guy Gillingham, who added, “Khalif just wants a fresh start and wants to play his final season in the CFL.”
He added he was “1,000 per cent” sure Mitchell would not be in Toronto because of a desire to stay on the west coast.
Mitchell, 27, said an herbal drink business he started in Seattle is the source of his desire to stay in the CFL’s West Division through 2013 — the final season of his contract.
“The reasons for not going to Toronto (is because) off the field, in this off-season right now, I started a business opportunity that I haven’t had and wanted for a long time,” Mitchell told Sportsnet.
“As professionals, we don’t make a lot of money in the CFL, but we get to play a great game for a little amount of time. And the relationships we can build playing this game is what I’ve actually taken advantage of and I actually have an opportunity now where we have a nice herbal drink going on and I don’t want to lose the opportunity. I want to see it grow.
“I’m a natural athlete; I don’t take no supplements and to be a part of something that’s growing, a part of not taking stimulants. Any growth in that development or in that avenue, I’m for it.”
TSN noted Mitchell would like to see this situation resolved in one of three ways:To have his trade with the Argos reversed and to be released by B.C.;
To be traded to Calgary;
To be traded to Edmonton.TSN added Mitchell has his eyes on a return to the NFL at the end of the season, after he spurned an offer from the Miami Dolphins last year to re-sign with the Lions.
All three proposed CFL scenarios seem unlikely, but for Eskimos fans, the third is the most absurd. Mitchell’s troubles in the 2012 season began against the Eskimos, back in Week 4 when he violently hyper-extended the arm of Eskimos’ offensive lineman Simeon Rottier. The play left Rottier’s teammates screaming foul (to put it lightly) and saw the league suspend him for two games.
When the two teams met again during Week 13 in Edmonton, Mitchell made throat slashing gestures at Rottier and the Eskimos’ offensive line and was fined in the days following the game. He garnered more serious negative attention in October last year when he posted a derogatory term against Chinese people on his Twitter account. As a result, the Lions decided to sit Mitchell before the team played — you guessed it — the Eskimos on Oct. 19.
Even if Eskimos general manager Ed Hervey were to roll the dice on Mitchell, plunking him down into the Eskimos’ locker-room would likely not sit well with the team’s offensive line. There’s a fierce rivalry in those trenches that goes back two seasons, to when then Lions’ defensive tackle Aaron Hunt accused the Eskimos’ O-line of being dirty.
Also keep in mind the Eskimos have committed to their defensive line already, in signing defensive end Odell Willis to join Marcus Howard, Ted Laurent and Don Oramasionwu, to name a few.
If possible, Calgary could be the best option on Mitchell’s strange list. When he was traded, he told the Vancouver Province’s Lowell Ullrich the Stamps had interest in him before B.C. dealt him to Toronto. But again, Calgary could only become an option if he were traded there by Toronto or outright released by the Argos.
Despite all of the drama, Mitchell’s skill set could buy him another chance in the CFL as a one-year rental. When Mitchell is focused on the game, he’s a force. The problem is, those days seem like a long time ago.
On Friday, the Argonauts responded to Mitchell’s statement with a news release.
“On April 2, 2013, the Toronto Argonauts made a trade in good faith with the B.C. Lions and acquired import DL Khalif Mitchell,” the Argonauts said. “All Argonauts players, as per the Canadian Football League, are expected to report to training camp on June 1, 2013. The club will have no further comment on the matter at this time.”
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