Un-Fortunate Whitehead: Accidents have slowed the B.C. Lions' big-play grasp

The massive performs the B.C. Lions receiver was identified for have been absent in 2023, however that does not trouble Fortunate Whitehead; he is aware of they’re going to come and he hopes will probably be within the post-season.

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It would time to start out calling Fortunate Whitehead by his authorized identify.

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Rodney Darnell Whitehead’s move with the B.C. Lions has been frustratingly and constantly interrupted by premature accidents — getting waylaid by damaged fingers, rolled ankles, hamstring pulls, you identify it. He’s been something however Fortunate.

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One of many Lions’ big-play threats, Whitehead has been collared by these numerous illnesses, together with this 12 months’s hamstring pull that has slowed him since Week 2. These long-bomb touchdowns that he had in his final two seasons — 75 yards twice in 2021, 90 yards towards Saskatchewan final season, his 115-yard punt return vs. Ottawa in 2021, and so forth. — have been absent in 2023.

Lucky Whitehead
B.C. Lions’ Fortunate Whitehead places on his helmet whereas warming up earlier than a CFL soccer sport towards the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in Vancouver, on Friday, October 1, 2021. Photograph by DARRYL DYCK /THE CANADIAN PRESS

He has roughly the identical quantity of targets (30) as the remainder of the Lions receiving corps, however has amassed simply 223 yards and no scores in 5 video games performed. That breakaway velocity that helped him lead the CFL in YAC (Yards After Catch) in 2021 has been caught in second gear, as he’s averaging simply three yards after the catch this season.

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Whitehead’s final 100-yard outing got here 11 video games in the past — one week shy of a calendar 12 months, when he had 136 and a TD towards the Roughriders.

“We’ve acquired loads of time,” he mentioned forward of Thursday’s matchup along with his former group, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

“My performs will come up. My massive performs will come. I’m not speeding it. My massive factor is simply being on the market, being accessible. And simply my presence helps different folks get open. … If I can run down the center or run a nook path to filter out the ball for (Keon Hatcher) for a 20-yard acquire, for Alex (Hollins) make a 20-yard acquire, (Dominque) Rhymes make a 20-yard acquire, that’s simply as efficient as a result of they suppose they coated me. I’m getting my guys open. So if I might be efficient by operating folks off, I’m gonna be efficient by operating folks off.

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“We’re profitable. I’m blissful. That’s all that issues.”

That’s in all probability probably the most spectacular a part of Whitehead’s damage battle — he’s nonetheless flashing that megawatt smile, nonetheless extolling his teammates’ skills, nonetheless laughing, joking and being a constructive presence.

“There are folks on the market on the earth doing a lot worse than I’m,” mentioned the 30-year-old. “I get to get up doing what I really like day by day. It’s a blessing to nonetheless be to be doing what I’ve been doing, for so long as I’ve been.”

Thursday’s looming date between the Lions (6-1) and Bombers (5-2) at IG Discipline (5:30 p.m. PT, TSN, AM730) is one other first-place showdown between the West’s prime two groups, and a win would give B.C. a commanding lead on dwelling area benefit within the playoffs. Whitehead’s greatest sport of the 12 months got here at Winnipeg in Week 3, when he had 5 catches for 72 yards. He has all the time appreciated the followers and ambiance at IG Discipline — the mutual love affair has continued although he’s with B.C. — saying it felt like dwelling.

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Fortunate Whitehead sat out Saturday’s 22-0 dwelling opener win towards the Edmonton Elks. Photograph by NICK PROCAYLO /PNG

Whitehead would like to repeat, or exceed, his efficiency from their first assembly, however that’s not his precedence. That will be the video games following Week 18.

“It’s clearly not a serious damage, however you gotta be sensible,” he mentioned Tuesday, sporting a full-leg compression sleeve.

“It feels good, however one improper transfer and you possibly can tweak it once more. So simply being sensible, consistently rehabbing and getting stronger, getting stronger each week.

“I do know my performs and my quantity will get known as once I’m 100 per cent. It’s solely Week 8 for us, it’s a really lengthy season and I’d fairly make a really massive play throughout playoffs, Gray Cup. That’s when folks wish to discuss issues. Nobody needs to speak in regards to the common season no extra. It’s a complete totally different stat sport come playoff time.”

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The teaching workers can be cognizant of defending their participant, and have been easing him again into the offensive system, protecting his workload gentle, the play calls extra conservative. Offensive co-ordinator Jordan Maksymic would fairly have Whitehead operating a wheel route than on the sidelines sporting avenue garments and his trademark pinwheel hat. And when groups are game-planning for him anyhow, that makes Whitehead’s job that a lot tougher.

“That in all probability affected his targets and manufacturing at little bit,” Maksymic mentioned of his play-calling. “We’ll all the time sport plan an enormous chunk of performs for him, after which clearly after we kick it off, the defence dictates the place the ball goes, however I feel he’s again feeling to what he was final 12 months.

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“He’s not catching anyone without warning anymore. Everyone is aware of the place No. 7 in orange is. It’s more durable to do from a sport plan perspective, and clearly if you’re on the market on the grass, these (defenders) get fairly deep behind him when he’s rolling downfield.

“We’ll maintain working our tails off to scheme that stuff up, and I do know he’s engaged on his stuff to make these massive performs occur.”

As for Rodney? He’s able to be Fortunate once more.

A wink, a smile, and a: “You’ll know once I’m again within the swing of issues.”

LUCKY’S BIGGEST PLAYS AS A LION

75-yard TD towards Saskatchewan, Week 1 2021

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75-yard TD vs Montreal Alouettes, September 2021

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115-yard landing return on a missed area objective vs. Ottawa, 2021

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90-yard TD towards Saskatchewan, 2022

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