The BC Lions will attempt to put some early dissension behind them when they kick off the 2023 CFL season on Thursday night against the host Calgary Stampeders.
Both teams finished 12-6 in the West Division last season, three games behind Winnipeg. BC defeated Calgary in the playoff opener before losing to the Blue Bombers in the division finals.
The Lions and Stampeders renewed their rivalry in last Thursday's preseason finale, when BC's Vernon Adams Jr. completed all 12 of his passes for 213 yards and three touchdowns in a 25-22 victory.
Things have gone a little sideways for the Lions since then. In a surprising move Monday, they traded defensive end Jonathan Kongbo to Hamilton for a conditional 2024 draft pick -- two weeks after touting the signing of the former Denver Broncos and Blue Bombers pass rusher.
Lions co-general manager Neil McEvoy explained that Kongbo "wasn't a fit" with the organization, prompting a reply on social media from Kongbo that raised eyebrows in BC and cast a shadow over Week 1 preparations.
"'Not a fit' because I called out star players not showing up for practice, and guys not wanting to work out," Kongbo tweeted. "Culture matters, it's called pro football for a reason."
Calgary camp was calm by comparison as the Stamps prepared to chase their ninth Grey Cup, with the last one coming in 2018.
Jake Maier enters 2023 as Calgary's unquestioned QB1 for the first time after taking over for franchise great Bo Levi Mitchell in Week 11 last year.
"The only change now is that my leadership has grown within the locker room, on the field and with the coaching staff," Maier told TSN.
Helping Maier out are one of the CFL's best offensive lines and running back Ka'Deem Carey, the league's leading rusher with 1,088 yards last season.
The Lions will be without wide receiver Keon Hatcher (foot) and linebacker Maxime Rouyer (hamstring), while the Stampeders won't have defensive backs Daniel Amoako (knee) and Nick Statz (foot) and offensive lineman Joshua Coker (ankle).
--Field Level Media