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Veteran defensive back Dante Marsh says B.C. Lions had 'no identity' in 2014

11/18/2014 07:14 EST | Updated 01/18/2015 05:59 EST
SURREY, B.C. - As he quietly cleaned out his locker, Dante Marsh indicated he didn't have anything to say.

But once the B.C. Lions' veteran defensive back turned around and started talking, there was plenty to get off his chest.

Marsh spoke openly about what ailed the CFL club in 2014, a 9-9 season that started with the promise of hosting the Grey Cup and ended with an embarrassing 50-17 defeat at the hands of the Montreal Alouettes in Sunday's East Division semifinal.

"We just weren't who we were," the 35-year-old said Tuesday. "I don't know. It was just ... no identity."

Marsh, who has patrolled B.C.'s secondary for the last 11 years, said he didn't expect to be back in 2015 after a frustrating campaign that included an ankle injury that kept him out from September until the team's final game of the regular season.

"I'm a happy person. I don't have any regrets," said Marsh, who was curiously asked to stay away from the team while he recovered. "I will be playing football for another year or two, somewhere."

Marsh wouldn't say whether or not players had started to tune out head coach Mike Benevides, but the Oakland, Calif., native questioned the anointing of leaders in the locker-room, adding that some of the veterans jettisoned in recent years still had more to give to the franchise.

"There were players who I thought still had a lot of football left in them that still should have been here," said Marsh, who had two interceptions on the year. "Players can fool (the media), players can fool general managers, players can fool coaches, players can fool fans. Players can't fool other players."

Lions linebacker Solomon Elimimian disagreed with Marsh's assessment, but added that criticism is going to come when a team fails to achieve its goal.

"We've had a lot guys step up," said Elimimian, who set a CFL record for tackles and is up for the most outstanding player award. "We've had a lot of leaders in this locker-room, but ultimately when you don't win there's going to be tough questions asked and leadership is one of them."

Another question is what the Lions are going to do with an offence that was hampered by injuries and inconsistent play under first-year co-ordinator Khari Jones.

No. 1 quarterback Travis Lulay played just one game after re-injuring his throwing shoulder following off-season surgery. Kevin Glenn was brought in as an insurance policy, but handled the bulk of the load, throwing for nearly 4,000 yards with 17 touchdowns against 17 interceptions.

"We didn't accomplish what we set out to accomplish at the beginning of the season," said Glenn, who threw two more picks against the Alouettes. "The ultimate goal was the Grey Cup so the down part is not being able to compete for it."

Lulay elected against undergoing another surgery when he was re-injured in September. He dressed as the backup in Montreal, but didn't play and will continue to rehab in hopes he can be ready for training camp.

Lulay knows the team has questions about his durability and may look at other options heading into training camp after general manager Wally Buono revealed he didn't know who his starting quarterback would be next season.

"I wasn't able to help my team much this season. That's first and foremost where my focus is," said Lulay. "For me, I've got to be healthy enough to play. Period. I can't play if I'm not healthy enough and that's all I can concern myself with."

Apart from Lulay, the Lions also lost running back Andrew Harris and slotback Courtney Taylor to injuries, while the offensive line was also beat up for long stretches.

Despite all the players on the training table, consistency among those in the lineup was a constant theme, and one that was never really settled as the team wobbled to a crossover playoff berth in the East.

"We weren't good enough down the stretch. I think the thing that plagued us all season long was we were inconsistent," said Lulay. "We didn't ... give ourselves opportunities to win every single game.

"You might not win every game, but if you're playing hard and you have discipline and there's a level of consistency you have chances every single week."

B.C.'s defence held strong most weeks, but the unit led by rookie co-ordinator Mark Washington lost steam over the final two games of the regular season before the disaster in Montreal.

"I'm proud of what our defence accomplished for many weeks of the season, but when it counted we just didn't get it together," said Elimimian. "We didn't play good as a team — offensively, defensively and special teams.

"I feel like we have great players in this locker-room. I feel like there's good coaches on the staff and I feel like there's the recipe to win."

At least one player heading out the door isn't so sure.

"I've been here a long time — no identity," said Marsh. "You didn't know what you were going to get week in and week out."

Note: 102nd Grey Cup Festival general manager Jamie Pitblado said Tuesday about 6,500 tickets remain for the Nov. 30 game at B.C. Place Stadium. Pitblado added that while having the Lions and the Saskatchewan Roughriders out of the playoffs isn't ideal, he's still confident the game will be a sellout.

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