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Lions defensive lineman Khalif Mitchell to appeal CFL's two-game suspension

07/24/2012 02:44 EDT | Updated 09/23/2012 05:12 EDT
SURREY, B.C. - B.C. Lions defensive lineman Khalif Mitchell wasn't letting a not-so-little thing like his appeal of a two-game suspension bother him Tuesday.

Mitchell, known for being a gentle giant off the field and an ultra-competitive one on it, has formally appealed the punishment he received for hyperextending the arm of Edmonton offensive lineman Simeon Rottier during a 27-14 loss to the Eskimos on Friday night. As a result, Mitchell will play Saturday in Calgary against the Stampeders and have his appeal heard at an arbitration hearing during the week of August 6.

"I don't mind being the centre of attention," said Mitchell after practice at the Lions' training facility. "I don't mind not being asked one question. It's not really a big gift or a courtesy. It comes with the business."

CFL commissioner Mark Cohon handed down the suspension Monday night after Mitchell violently pulled on Rottier's arm, bending it grotesquely in an unnatural fashion that resulted in the joint being hyperextended.

Mitchell, a 26-year-old Virginia Beach, Va., native who is in his third season with B.C., insisted he is not a dirty player.

"When I go to bed and look at myself in the mirror, the one who I've really gotta answer to wholeheartedly, I can look at myself in the mirror and know that I played very hard and I played very fair," he said.

Rottier left the game and although he returned in the second half, he didn't resume playing and isn't expected to suit up when Edmonton visits Winnipeg on Thursday night.

During half-time Friday, Edmonton offensive lineman Greg Wojt accused Mitchell on Twitter of deliberately trying to injure Rottier.

Mitchell, general manager Wally Buono, coach Mike Benevides and other players declined to discuss specifics of the incident until the appeal process is complete. Despite the controversy, Mitchell, a self-taught classical pianist who has a reputation for being a free spirit, said he is still the same laid-back person that he always was.

"Anybody who truly knows me, anybody who truly follows me, anybody who truly watches me and loves me, they know that I'm still Khalif Mitchell," he said. "And at the end of the day, that's who I want to be."

Mitchell made his comments as Buono stood behind reporters and scrutinized him. The GM said the club is respecting the "fair" arbitration process negotiated between the CFL and players association.

Buono and Benevides also expressed support for Mitchell during his supposedly difficult time.

"You've gotta love (players) all the time," said Buono. "You just can't love them when things are going well. Khalif is no different than any other player. Things come up that are not easy to deal with."

Benevides said he discussed the incident with the club's leadership council during a regularly-scheduled meeting. But the coach said he is not stressing the need for discipline more than usual as the Lions (2-2) prepare to meet the Stampeders (2-2).

Meanwhile, at least one Lion, Dante Marsh, would like to see B.C. re-sign former Lions defensive lineman Aaron Hunt after he was released by the Montreal Alouettes on Tuesday.

"As a matter of fact, I talked to Aaron (Tuesday) morning," said Marsh. "I'm all for it."

However, Buono quickly nixed the idea. He said the Lions are happy with Canadian rookie defensive end Jabar Westerman and imports on the front line.

"Right now, we have an excellent front four," said Buono. "We have a lot of depth with some very good young players."

Notes: Marsh participated in the full practice despite suffering a dislocated shoulder against the Eskimos. The 32-year-old Oakland native said he will play in Calgary. He had the shoulder popped back in after going down with the injury in the fourth quarter against Edmonton, but did not return.

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