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Lions find emergency help for offensive line
By Monte Stewart, The Canadian Press
SURREY, B.C. - The B.C. Lions are hoping that Ryan Cave will be a quick learner as they prepare to meet the Montreal Alouettes.
Quarterback Kevin Glenn's health — and interception rate — could depend on it.
Cave, a 26-year-old South Carolina native was signed Tuesday to help the Lions deal with an emergency situation at left offensive tackle. Due to injuries, the Lions (0-1) do not have anyone else with similar experience at the position who can start Friday in Montreal.
Cave, an Alouettes pre-season castoff who worked out with his new teammates for the first time Tuesday, only has one more full practice Wednesday, along with many playbook study sessions, to get ready for the Als (0-1). But despite the apparent ordeal, he welcomes the challenge.
"It's a great, great opportunity and I took advantage of it," said Cave, who had been back with his Arena League team, the Spokane Shock, and played a game for them, following his release from Montreal.
Lions coach Mike Benevides said there is a good chance Cave will start, depending on Wednesday's practice and how quickly he grasps B.C.'s offensive system.
"I'm just picking up different terminology and thinks like that, but it's coming along really fast," said Cave. "I always pick up things really fast."
Cave, who played collegiately at Virginia's Hampton University product, has spent the past three years with Spokane after three seasons in the now-defunct United Football League with the Hartford Colonials and Virginia Destroyers. Former NFL coach Marty Schottenheimer was his coach in Virginia.
"I've been playing football non-stop," said Cave. "So I'm ready to go. I've been in good shape and I'm just committed for anything to get the job done."
Cave's opportunity with B.C. came after rookie Andre Ramsey suffered an ankle injury in last weekend's season-opening loss to Edmonton. Second-year offensive lineman Hunter Steward is out with a knee injury, and Kirby Fabien is playing but is seeing limited action while he continues to recover from a severe knee injury that forced him to miss most of last season.
In the case of a right-handed quarterback like Kevin Glenn, left tackle is considered the most important position on the offensive line because that player has the responsibility to make sure a defender does not come around the signal-caller's blind side. Protecting Glenn's health is more crucial than usual because he is B.C.'s only healthy quarterback with CFL experience as usual starter Travis Lulay recuperates from off-season shoulder surgery.
Glenn liked what he saw of Cave in a fleeting examination as the Lions made some offensive adjustments for the Als.
"He's a pretty big guy," said Glenn. "It's going to take a lot to get around him. I can tell you that much.
"Just paying attention to some things, he's a pretty smart guy. He's picking up some stuff pretty well, because we've got some stuff going in. Just hearing him talk and communicate with the offensive linemen, he kind of knows what's going on."
Added defensive back Ryan Phillips: "He's getting thrown into the fire right now. He'll have to learn a lot of things on the run. But from (before practice) and my conversation with him, he seemed like a bright guy. He seems like a sponge and wants learn all the details to make him a better player and make him vital to our offence."
In addition to protecting Glenn from injury, Cave and company will also try to reduce the quarterback's interception rate. Glenn threw four interceptions against Edmonton after throwing only seven all season in 2013 while with the Calgary Stampeders.
"I've got three (interceptions left) for the rest of the season," Glenn said with a smile. "That means I'm not throwing no more interceptions. I'm gonna try (to go interception free.) Never say never, but I'm gonna try."
Provided that the Lions reduce turnovers, he believes that they will respond well following their loss to Edmonton and put on a better show in Montreal.
"It's not a race," he said of the CFL season," said Glenn. "It's a marathon. It's about who can withstand 18 games."
Injured tackle Ramsey's first CFL game did not last two full quarters as he was injured while Glenn was throwing one of his interceptions. When he went down, veteran Dean Valli, a nine-year veteran, saw his first-ever action as a tackle due to the emergency situation.
"Nobody got killed," said Valli. "We'll call that a success. I'll leave it at that."
Valli, who received the assignment because he is B.C.'s most senior offensive lineman, is expected to return to his usual starting right guard spot.
"I think, in a perfect world, (the coaches) would not have me out there (at left tackle)," he said.
While Glenn said he is to blame for his interceptions and the loss to Edmonton, despite the circumstances with the offensive line, coach Benevides said the rest of the team must react the same way.
"Right now, there isn't one phase (of the game) that I can say is good enough," said Benevides. "We're not good enough anywhere. We've got a lot of work to do in all facets."