B.C. Lions linebacker Solomon Elimimian shows off his trophy after winning the Most Outstanding Rookie award during the CFL Player Awards in Edmonton, Alta. November 25, 2010.
Photograph by: Don Healy, Postmedia News
VANCOUVER - Like the dog that chases after cars, never considering what would happen if he caught one, the B.C. Lions have caught Solomon Elimimian.
Well, it turns out they have considered that question, and the answer is: they’re not sure. All they know, or strongly suspect, is that they’re bound to be better with the Canadian Football League’s 2010 rookie of the year in their linebacking corps than without him.
“The multiplicity of what we do, the impact he has, big hitter, been a top defensive player in this league ... when you put Biggie and him on the field, we’re going to be a better team for it,” said head coach Mike Benevides.
“You get both he and Biggie on the field somehow. You get as many good, impact players as you can and then you figure it out as you go along.”
Biggie would be Adam Bighill, runner-up as the CFL’s outstanding defensive player last season after taking over the middle linebacker spot Elimimian had abdicated to try his luck in the National Football League.
When that didn’t work out, Elimimian came back to the Lions in mid-season, but he was less than 100% healthy, still a little bruised emotionally, and there really wasn’t a job for him any longer.
Even so, he said, the Lions made it clear they wanted him.
He wasn’t a happy camper coming back from being cut by both the Minnesota Vikings and Cleveland Browns last fall.
“I don’t think anybody ever is. Coming back was unexpected, and mentally you’re not there,” he admitted Monday. “You’ve just been cut and within a week you’re back in Canada and also, I was struggling with injuries.
“What Wally (Buono, Lions general manager) told me when I first got back was, just play the year out, see how it goes, make sure this is where you want to be,” said the compact, 26-year-old who was voted the CFL’s hardest hitter by his peers in 2011. “The interest they showed in me helped through this whole time.
“I feel like we have great people around here. Coach Benny (Mike Benevides), Wally, Coach (Rich) Stubler -- those are great minds. I’m sure they’ll find some way everybody can fit.”
“We’re getting a player that has gone through a year of transition, if you will,” said Benevides. “He wasn’t what he wanted to be last season, but now he’s clear in his decision, clear in the process of his rehabbing (a knee injury), clear in his desire to be a dominant player in our league -- so we’re going to have an outstanding Solomon Elimimian on our team.”
Elimimian joins offensive tackle Jovan Olafioye, quarterback Travis Lulay, centre Angus Reid, slotback Shawn Gore and defensive back Korey Banks and utility receiver Paris Jackson among the free agents the Lions have retained this off-season.
“It’s something I thought about with my mom, my brothers, I prayed about it, and I had peace about it,” he said, of leaving money on the table by turning down an offer to return to Cleveland, as well as nibbles from other CFL clubs.
“Yeah, but I was talking to R.P. (cornerback Ryan Phillips), and money only goes so far. I’m in a place where I want to be. With an organization, not just upstairs but in the locker room, that cares about me enough to have me back after last year didn’t go as well. Money is not everything. I felt I’d gain more in happiness being here.”
The NFL dream, he said, is over -- “It’s out. I’m happy to be here, and I say that sincerely” -- though his contract is only for one year with an option, and he’d still only be 28 if he elected to jump for an offer from Stateside.
“I feel the only thing I want to prove is that I can dominate like I did before I left and bring home a Grey Cup,” he said. “We’ve got so much depth, defensive line-wise, linebacking, and then you got the veterans in the secondary. I’m sure they’ll do some tinkering between now and training camp, but we’ve got everything we need, offensively and defensively. We got Lulay back, and bringing Shawn Gore back was huge.
“And Jovan, I was talking to him this morning. We feel like we’re ready to go.”
Where he plays, inside or outside, or what formation the Lions utilize -- 3-4 or 4-3 -- or what has to give in order to play three import linebackers (likely a rotating down lineman) are matters yet to be determined.
“I’ll be comfortable wherever Coach Stubler and Coach Benny put me,” Elimimian said. “We have a lot of depth, I feel our linebacking corps is probably the best in the CFL with me, Adam and Anton (McKenzie), so it’s going to be a good thing. I’m going to let them figure it out.”
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