Lions look be­yond the loss of Bighill, Phillips

‘I wish those guys the best’: De­fen­sive co-or­di­na­tor

StarMetro Vancouver - - SPORTS -

Mark Wash­ing­ton’s ears are ring­ing a lit­tle less than usual at B.C. Lions’ train­ing camp.

The club’s de­fen­sive co-or­di­na­tor has been steadily im­ple­ment­ing his sys­tems this week, but there are two big holes - not to men­tion big per­son­al­i­ties - miss­ing from the group with the off-sea­son de­par­tures of line­backer Adam Bighill and de­fen­sive back Ryan Phillips.

“It is dif­fer­ent to have those va­can­cies there,” said Wash­ing­ton, adding jok­ingly: “The sound is dif­fer­ent, or the lack of sound is dif­fer­ent.

“But it’s OK. I wish those guys the best.”

Bighill, a rock in the mid­dle for the Lions along­side Solomon Elim­imian, signed with the NFL’s New Or­leans Saints in Jan­uary thanks to an out clause in his con­tract af­ter the 28-year-old’s six sea­sons in B.C. where he reg­is­tered 489 de­fen­sive tack­les and 33 sacks.

Phillips, mean­while, was re­leased prior to free agency in Fe­bru­ary fol­low­ing a dis­agree­ment on a new deal and his fu­ture de­ploy­ment be­fore sub­se­quently ink­ing with the Montreal Alouettes.

The 34-year-old had played all of his pre­vi­ous 12 sea­sons with the Lions, grab­bing 47 in­ter­cep­tions and adding 478 tack­les while miss­ing just four of a pos­si­ble 216 games.

“I played with Bigs for six years, Ryan for seven,” said Elim­imian, the league’s most out­stand­ing player in 2014. “It goes past foot­ball. You get to know their fam­i­lies and they be­come like brothers.”

The CFL’s top de­fender in both 2014 and again last sea­son added that see­ing his friends leave was just an­other re­minder of the re­al­i­ties of pro­fes­sional foot­ball.

“One year you’re here and the next year you’re not,” said Elim­imian. “We all un­der­stand that. It doesn’t change our re­la­tion­ship out­side foot­ball. We’re very close, but it’s dif­fer­ent.”

While there ap­pears to be a num­ber of op­tions in the sec­ondary to take over for Phillips, Lions head coach and gen­eral man­ager Wally Buono was philo­soph­i­cal when asked specif­i­cally how he plans to re­place Bighill, who won the CFL’s de­fen­sive MVP hon­ours in 2015.

“Who was Adam Bighill seven years ago? Who was Solomon Elim­imian nine years ago?” Buono re­sponded.

“You find new play­ers. Adam’s a great foot­ball player, but hope­fully you’ll be talk­ing about the guy who re­placed him and how pro­duc­tive he was and what a bright fu­ture he has.”

will no longer be work­ing side by side with Adam Bighill in B.C.. Bighill joined the New Or­leans Saints this off-sea­son.

DAr­ryl DyCk/The CANA­DiAN PreSS

Solomon Elim­imian

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