Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Lions welcome Olafioye back with open paws

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SURREY, B.C. -- Jovan Olafioye is grateful that the B.C. Lions have welcomed him back with open arms after he considered a number of NFL options.

But the gratitude is definitely mutual. And now that the tackle has spurned NFL offers to return, Lions general manager has fewer worries on how to revitalize an injury-riddled offensive line.

"I felt it was the best opportunity -- to come back to somewhere somebody loves you," said Olafioye.

When Olafioye lingered around the Surrey, B.C., practice facility locker-room on the day the Lions cleaned out their lockers last November, many wondered whether he would be back -- and what his departure would mean to the banged-up offensive line.

"If I'd lost (Olafioye), that would have been a huge loss for us," said Buono.

But Olafioye's re-signing means the Lions now have three pillars in place -- himself, centre Angus Reid and Ben Archibald, who are all former all-stars. Olafioye, a 25-year-old Detroit native who is entering his fourth CFL season, was named the league's most outstanding lineman in 2012 and has earned league all-star selections the past two campaigns and West Division all-star status in all three.

Also, veterans Jon Hameister-Ries (back) and Dean Valli (knee) are recovering from off-season surgery, while Matt Norman, a guard tagged as Reid's eventual replacement at centre will be around for a full season after missing a large chunk of his rookie year to complete his teaching studies.

"It's good that (Hameister-Ries) and (Valli) are coming back, because they were a big part of our success even in going to the Grey Cup (in 2011)," said Olafioye.

He said Reid's return will really help the unit out, and with Norman in tow, the offensive line is "ready to go."

But, even after receiving a number of NFL offers and witnessing perks like multiple lounges, video games and shoes galore in the American circuit's dressing rooms, Olafioye did not feel ready to leave the Lions.

"I went to Cleveland and did a physical," he said. "I'm already here, and in the NFL, you've got to do so much stuff just to try to get your foot in the door. My foot is in the door here."

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 20, 2013 C6

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