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Friday, November 20, 2015

BUONO TIRED OF HARRIS, REDBLACKS MOTIVATED, FLUTIES IN THE NEWS

SURREY, B.C. - B.C. Lions general manager Wally Buono says Andrew Harris voicing his season-long frustration following the club's playoff exit won't impact contract negotiations with the impending free agent.

That doesn't mean there aren't going to be repercussions.

"Where it has a negative effect is ... in the locker-room,'' Buono said Wednesday. "You don't think we're frustrated with all this?''

The Lions' roller-coaster 7-11 regular season culminated in a 35-9 beating at the hands of the Calgary Stampeders in the CFL's West Division final on Sunday. As he joined teammates in cleaning out lockers less than 24 hours later, Harris told reporters that "the amount of effort and things I've put into this club ... hasn't been reflected the same way back to me.''

Despite finishing second in the league in rushing and first in yards from scrimmage, the 28-year-old Winnipeg native felt ignored at times in the offensive scheme, adding that the "writing's kind of on the wall'' after six seasons in B.C.

Buono said he had "a candid conversation'' with Harris this week and left the door open for his return, but speaking in general terms, it was clear he wasn't pleased with the airing of dirty laundry in public.

"You're going to go through your ups and downs, but you're a professional athlete, you're a professional coach, you're a professional GM,'' Buono said at his end-of-season press conference. "I don't stand up here every week and show my frustrations on why we won or why we lost. You've got to be enough of a pro that you can't do that. Your body language can't be so evident.

"I always say: 'I don't want to see your body language tell me if you've been successful or a failure, because if you can tell me, everybody else can see it.'''

Buono added that the dollars have to make sense for Harris to return to the Lions in 2016.

"There's a salary cap,'' he said. "If a player's demand is higher than what we can pay or higher than we feel is warranted then you've got to make a decision.''

The Lions were also blown out in last year's playoffs and replaced head coach Mike Benevides with Jeff Tedford, who had an extensive resume in U.S. college football, but had not worked in the CFL in more than 20 years.

"Jeff was brought here for specific reason: to make this football club into a winning organization,'' said Buono. "But at the end of it we were 7-11 and we went to Calgary and couldn't get the job done.''

Buono has a contract through 2017, but would not speculate on his or Tedford's future before meeting with team president Dennis Skulsky and owner David Braley. The Lions are 0-4 in the playoffs since Buono stepped aside as coach following the club's 2011 Grey Cup victory.

"The last four years we've kind of regressed every year,'' said Buono. "If this year was rock bottom then so be it, but what happens from today forward, we've got to look at how we're going to put our organization in the best position to improve and to win.''

Buono also touched on the future of veteran quarterback Travis Lulay, who lost the starting job to rookie Jonathon Jennings after going down with a knee injury in September. The 32-year-old Lulay dealt with injuries his throwing shoulder over the previous two seasons, but is eager to keep playing.

"Travis is an intelligent guy, he takes things to heart,'' said Buono. "Would the organization like to have him back? Yes, but part of that is depending on what his goals are, what his objectives are.''

Notes: The Lions announced Wednesday that a trio of Canadians had signed contract extensions. Wide receiver Stephen Adekolu, slotback Shawn Gore and offensive lineman Cody Husband each inked two-year deals. ... Buono said Jennings didn't break his collarbone in the West semifinal, but instead suffered an injury to the AC joint.

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OTTAWA - The Ottawa Redblacks say bonds between players forged through adversity have led them to the verge of a CFL championship.

The Redblacks have gone from dead last in the league one year ago to being one game away from the Grey Cup. Ottawa will host the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the CFL East Division final Sunday afternoon.

"It's almost surreal to have this opportunity after what we went through last year,'' said defensive back Jerrell Gavins, who missed the last two games due to an injury behind his knee. "We're not a team, we're a family and there's a bond. We've got a really special group and for us it's now or never. We want to make it happen.''

Gavins is cleared to play and looking forward to getting back in the lineup. The Redblacks roster could also be bolstered by the return of running back Jeremiah Johnson.

Johnson suffered what was expected to be a season-ending foot injury Oct. 6, but has been able to return to form and would give Ottawa some additional depth.

"Health wise it's encouraging so it gives you options,'' said Redblacks head coach Rick Campbell. "I don't get too caught up in the injury thing whether one team has more injuries or not than the other. You just field the best team that you can, which we're going to do and they're going to do their thing, and away you go.''

Perhaps most encouraging for the Redblacks is hearing quarterback Henry Burris is feeling 100 per cent.

Burris suffered a knee injury in late October and was questionable to play against Hamilton in the first of a home-and-home series. The 40-year-old played both games, but took another hit to his knee in the first game against the Tiger-Cats. The Redblacks' bye-week after winning the Division has clearly paid off for the veteran pivot.

"Everything is good,'' said Burris. "Getting out here, I feel much better (Thursday). Being able to get out there and run around and move around much better than I ever have as far as after the injury occurred. I'm feeling strong.''

The Redblacks believe the struggles they went through as a team has made them even stronger and is likely what has led to such a tight-knit group.

"This is the Eastern Final and all the chips are on the table and everyone's going to bring out everything that they've got,'' receiver Chris Williams said. "We're going to be ready.''

Campbell says he's liked what he's seen from the team so far preparation wise, but expects things to improve every day leading up to the game.

"We've been working hard, but this is the time to keep ramping it up,'' said Campbell. "Total focus has to be Sunday at 1 p.m., so far so good, but Friday's practice we want to be better than today and so on as we go. I think the guys are in the right frame of mind, but we know we've got to work at this thing all the way until the end because we will have to be at our best to beat (Hamilton).''

Notes: Sunday's game is sold out. The Redblacks will set a new attendance record for TD Place with over 25,000 fans planning to attend the game. Ottawa's Jordan Verdone was named the Redblacks nominee for the 2015 Jake Gaudaur Veterans' Award, given annually to the CFL player who best demonstrates the attributes of Canada's veterans.

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BOSTON - Former CFL star quarterback Doug Flutie says both of his parents died within an hour of each other.

Flutie says in a statement posted on his Facebook page that his father, Dick, died of a heart attack in a hospital in Florida, where the family moved years ago.

He said Wednesday that less than an hour later, his mother, Joan, also suffered a heart attack and died.

Flutie wrote: "They say you can die of a broken heart and I believe it.''

Flutie did not elaborate on the circumstances of their deaths, but called them ``incredible parents and grandparents'' who had been married for 56 years and were always there for their children.

Flutie starred in the CFL with B.C., Calgary and Toronto from 1990 to 1997. He was a six-time recipient of the league's most outstanding player award and won three Grey Cup titles _ with Calgary in 1992 and Toronto in 1996 and '97.

The 1984 Heisman Trophy winner also played in the NFL with Chicago, New England, Buffalo and San Diego and was a Pro Bowl selection in 1998 as a member of the Bills.

Flutie's brother Darren also played in the CFL from 1991 to 2002 as a receiver with B.C., Edmonton and Hamilton.

"On behalf of all of us at the CFL, heartfelt condolences to Doug Flutie and Darren Flutie on the loss of their parents,'' CFL Commissioner Jeffrey Orridge posted on Twitter.

 With files from The Canadian Press

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