Khalif Mitchell is expressing no regrets as he gets ready to face Simeon Rottier and the Edmonton Eskimos again.
The two are expected to clash Saturday as Mitchell’s Lions (8-3) visit the Eskimos (5-6) in the Albertan capital. The last time the B.C. Lions defensive lineman battled Edmonton, in a July loss at B.C. Place Stadium in July, he twisted Rottier’s arm awkwardly after a play in the first half and received a two-game suspension.
“It’s football – it happens,” said Mitchell after practice Tuesday. “It was something that happened. I already was given a discipline and served it, so I’m not worried about it no more.”
Mitchell was not penalized during the game, but CFL commissioner Mark Cohon decided to hand him the longest suspension for an in-game incident. Mitchell launched an appeal that delayed his punishment, but the arbitration case was unsuccessful.
Rottier was immediately sidelined with an elbow injury but is now back on Edmonton’s roster.
Mitchell, a 27-year-old who is in his third season with the Lions, said he will take his usual “tough” approach to the game at Commonwealth Stadium.
“I’m not scheming any players,” he said. “I’m not going to do nothing crazy. I’ve gotta go against their whole offence.”
Mitchell is not expecting a hostile response from the Eskimos, contending he would have received one in the second half of the previous meeting, or their fans.
He believes the incident has had a positive effect on his career and shone a light on linemen who take considerable punishment on every play while playing critical roles, but often remain anonymous.
“A lot of people that didn’t know Khalif Mitchell now know Khalif Mitchell,” he said. “A lot of people that didn’t pay attention to the line of scrimmage now pay attention to the line of scrimmage.
“One thing I learned is that, even when things all around you are going bad, there are still things to look at if you look at each person.”
He discovered that, contrary to what he thought, many people do like him.
“It brought out the clarity in people,” he said. “When a lot of dark stuff’s going around you, you start to see light come out brighter.”
Rottier has expressed forgiveness publicly for Mitchell. The Lion said he had communication with Rottier during a disciplinary hearing with Cohon, but Mitchell does not see a need to speak to him again about the incident.
Mitchell said he rarely speaks to opposing offensive linemen, although he did talk to some from Hamilton at dinner following a game and others from Saskatchewan Roughriders at a party.
“I’m not really looking at anything to say or justify any reasonings, or trying to have any revenge on anybody. ... I’m not looking to expect anything.”
Lions coach Mike Benevides said he has not offered Mitchell any special advice in wake of the previous game’s incident. The B.C. field boss indicated the team has moved past it.
However, Benevides also indicated that he expects Mitchell, a self-taught classical pianist who is a personable, gentle giant off the field but physical force on it, to remain disciplined.
“My only words to him were: ‘Let’s go play to win the game. Let’s stay focused on what we need to do,“’ said Benevides. “That seems like an eternity (to) people who bring it up. But I know this: That the people around him and he himself have to focus on the right thing.”
Mitchell expressed more concern about getting a win against the Eskimos after they upset the Lions in their first meeting at B.C. Place Stadium.
“They came in here and they won a good game and a tough game,” said Mitchell. “But when we go back out there, we’re going to be better prepared for them.”
Meanwhile, Benevides has some difficult roster decisions to make as the Lions seek their seventh win in the past eight games. Middle linebacker Solomon Elimimian, who returned to play out his option last week after unsuccessful tryouts with Minnesota and Cleveland of the NFL, had to be slotted somewhere, in accordance with league rules, by Tuesday. The Lions had five days to make a decision on him, and Tuesday was the deadline.
Benevides said the club would fit him in somehow, but he did not know exactly where. The coach said he would leave the move up to general manager Wally Buono.
Elimimian participated in a warmup Tuesday, but missed practice with a hamstring injury suffered with Minnesota. He said his hamstring is getting better, but he does not know when he can suit up for a full practice.
Second-year Lion Adam Bighill is excelling at his former starting middle linebacker spot and appears likely to hold the position again Saturday.
“The first place I’ve gotta get (Elimimian) back to right away is special teams,” said Benevides.
Running back Stu Foord also missed practice due to an ankle injury suffered in last weekend’s win over Toronto and is considered questionable.
Benevides said there is a “distinct possibility” that Kierrie Johnson, out with a broken arm suffered after scoring a touchdown in early July against Saskatchewan, will be added to the roster.
Notes: Three Lions took CFL player of the week honours announced Tuesday. Quarterback Travis Lulay took the offensive award while receiver Shawn Gore was named top Canadian and returner Tim Brown garnered the special teams honour.
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