Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Benevides Says B.C. Lions Have a Better Understanding of Khalif Mitchell in 2014

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Benevides Says B.C. Lions Have a Better Understanding of Khalif Mitchell in 2014

Article excerpt

Benevides: Lions understand Mitchell better

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KAMLOOPS, B.C. - B.C. Lions head coach Mike Benevides says his team has a better handle on what makes Khalif Mitchell tick this time around.

The hulking defensive tackle helped the Lions win the 2011 Grey Cup, however a series of incidents on an off the field the following season precipitated a trade to the Toronto Argonauts prior to the 2013 campaign.

The mercurial Mitchell rebounded in Toronto and asked for his release from the Argos to pursue NFL opportunities this winter, but when those failed to materialized the Lions surprised the rest of the CFL by bringing him back into the fold.

"I think he's a person that's matured. He's a person that's experienced some things," Benevides said at training camp this week. "The biggest thing I see is everybody else understanding who he is.

"I think he's very conscious of what's occurring and what's going on around him. What people need to know is he is not a bad person. He's a good person."

Benevides would know.

He was the Lions' defensive co-ordinator back in 2011 when Mitchell had his best season, compiling 33 tackles and six sacks.

"I see everybody understanding who he is and sometimes you have a misconception or you don't understand someone and that sometimes creates issues," said Benevides. "Khalif is a very charismatic guy, he's a very passionate guy. He enjoys the game. His teammates and his team and the guys around him are very important to him."

But it was those teammates who wanted him out the door after the six-foot-six, 315-pound Mitchell made headlines for all the wrong reasons in 2012.

The league suspended him two games for violently hyperextending the arm of an opponent that July before fining him an unspecified amount for making multiple throat-slashing gestures in another game. Mitchell was then fined and suspended again for violating the CFL's social media policy after using a racial slur on Twitter.

Benevides said the team's leadership group was consulted when the idea to was first floated to bring Mitchell back, and it was agreed that all parties could move on and work towards winning the Grey Cup, which the Lions host in November.

"It was a long process and discussion. There was a lot of guys that I spoke to and they were the ones who said 'Bring him back in the room,'" said Benevides. "At the end of the day we all have a job to do and that's win."

But while his coach has seen growth and maturity, the 29-year-old Mitchell emphasized he's still the same person in many ways.

"I haven't changed who I am. Even when I came back to B.C. I was like 'I'm going to be Khalif' and they were like 'We understand that,'" said Mitchell, referring to himself in the third person. "I think a lot of people don't understand who Khalif is because a lot of people only see me in football or from the negative things that I've produced in the media. …

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