Bruising faded: B.C. Lions get a shot in the arm with the return of Vernon Adams Jr.

Watching his team get pummelled by Winnipeg was as painful as the injury that caused him to miss the past two games, says the B.C. Lions QB

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Saskatchewan’s Larry Dean came steaming through the line like a Rocky Mountain Express, six feet and 220 pounds of unblocked blitzing violence, forcing Vernon Adams Jr. into flight mode — right into the arms of Roughriders Pete Robertson.

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The tackle that followed was brutal, the B.C. Lions QB getting his leg trapped underneath and twisted awkwardly while being pulled backward.

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It would be the last play of the game for Adams in the Week 7 matchup, with him limping to the treatment tent and everyone at B.C. Place fearing the worst.

Everyone, except him.

“I knew it wasn’t a bad tear. (The medical staff) said a little sprain, tear, little tear, whatever, but I knew it wasn’t that bad because I got up and I started walking on it,” Adams said at practice on Thursday.

“I was just like, ‘OK, I know for a fact it’s not too bad, but I know it hurts, too. Like I’ve never felt like this before.

“(After), I was kind of relieved and thankful. God had my back that day … and it wasn’t as bad as some of the other quarterbacks in the league.”

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The knee injury kept him out of the following week against Edmonton, and then Week 9 against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, with Dane Evans getting the call under centre.

But it was Evans’ turn to pick up an injury, with Adam Bighill’s belly flop tackle leaving the Lions QB with a rib injury and on the IR for this week against Calgary.

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Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ Ricky Walker (9) and Willie Jefferson (5) sack B.C. Lions quarterback Dane Evans (17) during first half CFL action in Winnipeg Thursday, August 3, 2023. Photo by John Woods John Woods /THE CANADIAN PRESS

But Adams is back, healthy, and ready to go. And thankful to be so, because as painful as his knee injury was, seeing his teammates get pummelled 50-14 by Winnipeg — and not being able to do anything about it — was injurious in itself.

“Man, they both hurt an equal amount,” he said. “The game that was tough, you know? We all prepared hard, Dane prepared hard, and he goes out with a rib injury — and I know he didn’t want to go out like that.

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“That (loss) hurt all of us, but you know we’re trying to move past that. It feels good now to get back on the field with the team with our brothers and do what we do.”

It was an unusual site to see Adams, the starting quarterback, playing water boy to his teammates during warm-ups and the game, and being front of the line alongside receiver Dominque Rhymes — who was also held out of last week’s game — to give high-fives and play cheerleader.

“That’s always been me,” said Adams. “Even if I can’t contribute, like when Nathan (Rourke) came back last year, I just want to be the ultimate teammate.

“I don’t want to sit back and whine or whatever. I’ll let the guys know I’m there for them, and that’s it. Whatever I can. If they need me to get them water, if they need me to go get anything from the locker room, that’s what I want to be for them.”

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Calgary Stampeders Branden Dozier does his best to stop B.C. Lions QB Vernon Adams Jr, from getting the TD in CFL action at McMahon stadium in Calgary on Thursday, June 8, 2023. The Lions face the Stamps on Saturday. Photo by Darren Makowichuk /Postmedia

This week that meant giving them a boost by returning to the practice field. Sessions seemed fresher the past few days than they did on a short turnaround in the lead to the game against the Bombers.

Head coach Rick Campbell said Adams was “two thumbs up” after practice, and his QB looked unaffected by the brace on his knee or any lingering effects from the sack.

He was back to firing frozen ropes to Alex Hollins and Keon Hatcher in the scrimmage against his defence, and mobile in and out of the picket.

“I’m feeling good, man,” Adams said after practice.

“I got this brace on, and I think it’s giving my mind some closure, just saying ‘OK, you’re good.’

“I ran around here, did some rollouts, stuff like that in practice, and it felt good. We’ll see how it goes when guys are running after me.

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“… There’s always ups and downs in practice, but it felt good to get back out here. Our defence, honestly, I think is still the best defence in the league. So we’re going against these guys and I might get frustrated. Sometimes I throw an interception or they get a batdown … but in the game, it’s a lot slower. And as long as I’m locked into my reads, my preparation is the next couple of days before the game, we got the playmakers and the defence to make it happen.”

The Lions and Blue Bombers are tied atop the West Division at 6-2, with Saskatchewan (4-4) and Calgary (3-5) close behind. Winnipeg takes on Edmonton (0-8) at Commonwealth Stadium Thursday night with a chance to extend the Elks’ historic home losing streak.

Saturday’s date with the Stampeders at B.C. Place is the fourth of five straight games against divisional opponents.

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“It is a big game. All these games are big. We always talk about it every week, and it’s true,” said Campbell. “I think that’s why people like football, because all the games matter.

“We’ve had a nine-day break, which is good because we needed it. But we’re looking forward to getting back out there.”

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Calgary Stampeders at B.C. Lions 

4 p.m., TV: TSN  Radio: AM730

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