Surprisingly stalwart B.C. Lions line of defense will get stronger with the return of Woody Baron

“Initially we thought he would come again partway by way of coaching camp. Then it obtained to be the tip of coaching camp. Then it needed to be that he was on the six recreation (injured checklist). And so it took approach longer than anybody anticipated — together with him.” — Head coach Rick Campbell on the arrival of Woody Baron

It’s all uncharted territory for Woody Baron.

A brand new group, a brand new metropolis, and a brand new expertise.

When the B.C. Lions signed the defensive sort out throughout the first few days of free company in February, it was one other transfer to handle the group’s weak point in each the move rush and towards the run. With fellow signee Steven ‘Range’ Richardson becoming a member of a place group of quickly evolving sophomores, it seemed just like the line of defense would lastly have some tooth.

Then Richardson was misplaced for the 12 months, even earlier than coaching camp. And Baron, 29, was shut behind, after having low season ankle surgical procedure. The previous Montreal Alouette was doing exercises within the low season, when he felt his ankle dropping stability. X-rays confirmed his bones had been wholesome, however the MRI confirmed his cartilage was sporting out, inflicting him points along with his steadiness and mobility.

“Initially we thought he would come again partway by way of coaching camp. Then it obtained to be the tip of coaching camp. Then it needed to be that he was on the six recreation (injured checklist),” mentioned head coach Rick Campbell. “And so it took approach longer than anybody anticipated — together with him.”


NEXT GAME

Saturday

Calgary Stampeders vs. B.C. Lions

7 p.m., B.C. Place. TV: TSN. Radio: AM 730.


Whereas the Lions had been rocketing to a 9-3 begin, Baron was caught on the sidelines. No video games, no practices. Whereas the group was out on the observe area, dancing and joking to the music pumped over the loudspeakers, Baron was off to the aspect, working with resistance bands, steadiness boards and medication balls.

He didn’t really feel remoted or excluded, however his function as a spectator was — as he dropped the phrase for the forty eighth time in dialogue Thursday — “new.”

“It’s been new for me. I haven’t needed to do it this fashion earlier than,” mentioned the 6-foot-1, 270-pound Chicago native.

“I’ve needed to rehab and miss a while earlier than, however not this a lot, and never this near the start of this season. This complete season has been so new. The whole lot I’ve needed to do has been one thing I’ve not carried out earlier than.

“And it’s been new for me to be on a group that’s doing effectively — with out you.”

The defensive entrance has taken large strides this 12 months, even with out their big-ticket additions in Richardson and Baron.

Even the bottom metrics are starkly completely different than earlier years.

B.C. Lions quarterback Mike Reilly (13) lies on top of Montreal Alouettes’ Woody Baron after rushing for a first down during the second half of a CFL football game in Vancouver, on Saturday Sept. 28, 2019.
B.C. Lions quarterback Mike Reilly (13) lies on prime of Montreal Alouettes’ Woody Baron after dashing for a primary down throughout the second half of a CFL soccer recreation in Vancouver, on Saturday Sept. 28, 2019.Picture by DARRYL DYCK /THE CANADIAN PRESS

B.C. was final in sacks (23) in 2021. The season earlier than that, the Leos eked out 28, however might solely boast being increased than Montreal’s whole of 27. The run defence was additionally usually meek, 1,921 yards in 2019 (third most) and 1,471 in 2021 (4th most).

In 2022, B.C. has given up simply 16 dashing yards greater than league-leading Hamilton (1,048). Solely Saskatchewan (38) and Calgary (37) have extra sacks than B.C. (35), and each groups have performed two and one video games greater than the Lions.

Mathieu Betts, who had two sacks and 13 tackles in 19 video games with Edmonton over two years, has seven sacks this season, identical as rookie Sione Teuhema. Sophomore Obum Gwacham has 5 and David Menard each have 5. It’s been manufacturing by committee.

However the clinching discussions got here with B.C. line of defense coach John Bowman — whom Baron performed with for 2 years in Montreal.

And regardless of not taking part in this 12 months, he’s nonetheless felt at dwelling.

“I don’t have a coaching camp with these guys. Like the within jokes which might be established, they go over my head,” Baron mentioned, chuckling.

“But it surely’s been a reasonably flawless integration from once I first obtained right here (to now). It’s very straightforward to really feel at dwelling on this locker room.

“After I obtained right here, all people was already clicking on all cylinders. And I simply witnessed the entire course of. I don’t have a ton of affect on it, I feel however I feel all people within the room is able to manufacturing and taking part in effectively.”

Baron’s 2021 numbers from Montreal had been modest — 16 tackles, six sacks and one compelled fumble in 14 video games — however the expertise scouts clearly noticed extra on movie than the stats sheets confirmed. Nonetheless, it wasn’t till final week that Campbell obtained to see him function in individual in Leos colors.

“He seemed actually good. We didn’t know what we had been going to get. We didn’t know what he was going to appear like, however he appears to be like full pace,” mentioned Campbell. “He appears to be like actually fast. He’s primarily an inside man, however he has the flexibility that if we wish to put him on the surface, we might.

“If he interprets how he’s practising into the sport, he’s going to point out up and do some stuff (towards Calgary). We’re excited to get somebody like him again at this level of the season, after we’re heading to the final third.”

The Stampeders enhance the league’s finest dashing assault with Ka’Deem Carey, who leads all operating backs in yards (773), touchdowns (7), yards per carry (6.7) and 100-yard video games (3). As a group, Calgary averages a CFL-high 109.7 yards per recreation.

If there was an opportune time for Baron to return to energetic responsibility, Saturday’s recreation is it.

However the veteran lineman was philosophical about his return to the lineup, stepping in for the injured Teuhema behind Nathan Cherry.

“I’m simply type of taking my arms off the wheel, simply type of witnessing all the pieces,” Baron mentioned. “I feel my function will turn into evident, however it’s all completely different from my perspective.

“It’s completely different than a number of methods — possibly each approach,” he added, evaluating it to his solely different CFL group. “My strategy to the scenario is type of unorthodox. I’ve type of let go of like outcomes and stuff. Simply keep within the second, no matter that appears like, recognize your effort and respect the place you’re. No possibly chasing after the place you’re feeling you need to be.

“It’s laborious sufficient attempting to be excellent. The sport is tough sufficient with out you having to work towards your personal projection of your self. There’s perfection in releasing management a bit bit. In the event you give your finest effort, no matter you produce is the right model. And relatively than like attempting to chase this flawless splendid of your self — which you will not catch anyway — simply go on the market and do your finest. It relieves a number of stress.”

Twitter.com/TheRealJJAdams


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