VANCOUVER - B.C. Lions have lifted the standard TV blackout of Saturday’s game against Saskatchewan and transferred it to the practice field.
According to head coach Mike Benevides, the West Division leaders will be going indoors for the rest of the CFL season, and they’ll be closing the doors behind them when they do.
Benevides said it will be the club’s policy to bar media and cameras from workouts at BC Place Stadium, starting Thursday, except for the last few minutes of activity, when the team normally works on its kicking game.
The Lions’ intention is to curtail media access through to the Nov. 18 West Division final. After that, the team is subject to media access rules governed by the CFL, if B.C. should make it to Toronto for the Nov. 25 Grey Cup game.
“We’ll be down there (B.C. Place) for the rest of the duration,” Benevides said Wednesday, following the final outdoor practice of the season at the team’s Surrey training facility.
The Lions will return to their Surrey headquarters only for possible rundowns after a game and for film study.
With the playoffs approaching, Benevides and general manager Wally Buono believe it’s time for the players to “close ranks” and assume a more cloistered training environment. BC Place offers the advantage of not only being a dry, climate-controlled venue in which to practise, but simulates the game environment. If the Lions should advance to the Grey Cup, all of their remaining three games will be played indoors. So, what is the point of practising outdoors, Benevides asks?
An added advantage is that the Lions can work on wrinkles, or disguise injuries, without the possibility of inside information being leaked unknowingly or unintentionally through tweets or reports.
Keep the media and, by extension the fans, in the dark, or the shadows, as they do in the NFL.
“One of the biggest things, in today’s world, is that the dissemination of information is so immediate, if there’s something you prefer people not to see,” Benevides explained. ”It’s a matter of inclusion and exclusion, a feeling of ‘Guys, we’re in this by ourselves.’
“Everybody on the outside is not always on our side. I think there’s a lot of messaging you can do with it, from a strategic point of view. You’re always worried about doing something that catches people’s attention. In today’s world, if you see something, you tweet it and it’s out there.”
The Roughriders caused something of a flap earlier this season when they decided to make two practices a week at Mosaic Stadium off-limits to fans. According to the team, a rogue fan (possibly more) tweeted practice information that could be useful to rival teams.
Accredited media, however, were still able to attend all of the Roughriders’ practices throughout the week.
But the Lions are taking information control to another level by barring fans and limiting media accessibility for the next three weeks.
“The message is, ‘This is just about us,’” Benevides said.
Running back Andrew Harris believes the Lions' 41-21 loss to the Calgary Stampeders last Friday was
not only costly when it came to his team losing momentum, but it probably blunted his candidacy for the CFL's most outstanding Canadian player award.
Harris had trouble gaining yards behind a patchwork offensive line and, consequently, didn't gain much ground in the affection of voters against his chief rival, Calgary running back Jon Cornish.
"Everything went wrong, especially in a game that was going to be a deciding factor as to who gets nominated for that award (most outstanding Canadian)," Harris said. "It's between me and Cornish. I hope my performance in that game didn't decide it (Harris had 30 yards' rushing to Cornish's 86). If it did, so be it."
Harris was one six Lions named Wednesday in the first round of most outstanding player voting by the Vancouver chapter of the Football Reporters of Canada:
Lions' Nominees For CFL Most Outstanding Player Awards:
Most Outstanding -- Travis Lulay, QB
Most Outstanding Defensive Player -- Adam Bighill, LB
Most Outstanding Canadian Player -- Andrew Harris, RB
Most Outstanding Lineman -- Jovan Olafioye, RT
Most Outstanding Rookie -- Jabar Westerman, DT
Most Outstanding Special Teams Player -- Tim Brown, KR
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The BC Lions coaches, including head coach Mike Benevides, left, wore pink to support the fight against breast cancer when they played against the Edmonton Eskimos in CFL action at BC Place on Oct. 19. The Lions won the game 39-19.
Photograph by: Stuart Davis, PNG