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Lineup changes loom for Lions after big win
By Monte Stewart, The Canadian Press
SURREY, B.C. - B.C. Lions coach Mike Benevides had plenty to smile about Monday after his team returned from a big win in Toronto. But some of his players won't share his mood next weekend.
Even after strong performances against the Argonauts, some Lions are in danger of losing their starting or roster spots when B.C. (5-3) hosts the Saskatchewan Roughriders at home on Sunday.
Kick returner/running back Tim Brown appears to be a likely casualty after he racked up 169 punt return yards and 80 kick return yards as the Lions posted their third straight win. With starting tailback Andrew Harris expected to return from an ankle injury, Benevides said Brown only has a "50-50" chance of staying in the lineup due to the balancing act required under the CFL's Canadian and import player ratio.
"I'd love to keep him on, but it's a challenge from a roster-number point of view," said Benevides.
Brown, a 26-year-old Stockton, Calif., native who is in his fourth CFL season, returned one punt for 70 yards and another for 69, setting up a touchdown and a field goal, against the Argos. He played only his second game of the season after spending most of the campaign on the practice roster.
Benevides said he has struggled to keep Brown on the active roster, but it's too difficult to sacrifice an import elsewhere on offence or defence to keep him in the mix.
The coach says he hopes Harris, sidelined in a victory over Hamilton on Aug. 8, will return after showing signs of progress in his recovery early last week before taking time off to mend.
"With running backs, you never want to risk (a premature return), because (the ankle) is so important to what they do," said Benevides.
Veteran running back Stefan Logan, who rushed for 145 yards on 19 carries and gained another 49 on receptions against Toronto, will also be affected by the return of Harris. Logan appears headed back to a back-up role behind Harris, who leads the league in combined yards with 781 and ranks second in rushing (410).
Changes also loom on the B.C. defence as cornerback Dante Marsh gets ready to return to the starting lineup after missing the game in Toronto due to a hamstring injury.
"It's pretty good," said Marsh. "I feel like I should be able to play this week."
Marsh, a 33-year-old Oakland, Calif., native who is in his 11th season with the Lions, missed his first game in four years. The one-time CFL all-star and four-time West Division all-star said he wanted to be smart and give his body a chance to rest.
Rookie Ronnie Yell returned an interception for a touchdown in Marsh's place in the short-side cornerback spot. If Marsh returns, Yell is likely to move back to his wide-side cornerback spot. Rookie T.J. Lee, who played his first CFL game in Yell's usual wide-side spot, faces a return to the practice roster.
Marsh said the play of the rookies against Toronto speak well of B.C.'s roster depth, but their development is more about the future than the present.
"Right now, that's my time," said Marsh.
According to Benevides, this is also the time for Kevin Glenn to remain the starting quarterback. Although nominal No. 1 Travis Lulay, recuperating from off-season shoulder surgery, saw his first game action at various times against the Argos, Glenn will start against Saskatchewan — provided that he is healthy.
Glenn, who played against Toronto despite a thigh contusion suffered a week earlier, was limping as the team returned to its Surrey practice facility.
"He's winning games for us right now, and he's the one that's healthy, so he's the one that's played the most," said Benevides. "It's unfair to put all that play time on (Lulay) right now."
Benevides slotted Lulay in during the first quarter, second quarter and at the end of the game in Toronto as part of his recovery process and plans to do the same against Saskatchewan.
"I don't care what people's ideas or ideals are — we have to get him in," said Benevides.
However, Benevides will feel less urgency about getting other injured players back in the lineup if he feels that a return could hamper their long-term recovery hopes.
"With the bye coming a week after, I'm not going to push it," he said.
Notes — The Lions cancelled a rundown Monday and will have a day off Tuesday before returning to practice on Wednesday. ... Defensive back Josh Johnson remains out with a knee injury. … Import offensive tackle Andre Ramsey, who suffered an ankle injury in the first game of the season that caused considerable lineup juggling, is eligible to return from the six-game injured list, but he is also caught in the ratio crunch. Ramsey has actually over-stayed his time on the six-game injured list, but he is allowed to do so under league rules. … Offensive lineman Jovan Oliafoye said he and line mate Hunter Steward, who both stand six-foot-six and weigh more than 300 pounds, had to "slide through" a relatively narrow opening after they were stuck in a Toronto hotel elevator on game day. "It wasn't the best of room, but there was enough room," said Oliafoye.