The B.C. Lions defensive tackle said Monday he has learned a lesson after getting in trouble with his team and the CFL for posting a tweet that contained a racial slur about Chinese people.
"That was just my decision and I decided to make an adjustment," said Mitchell after returning to practice at the team's training facility.
The Lions disciplined Mitchell by scratching him from Friday's 39-19 victory over the Edmonton Eskimos even though he was healthy after missing three games with an injury. He was also excluded from the team's walk-through a day earlier, and the league fined him an undisclosed amount.
Mitchell irked club management and CFL commissioner Mark Cohon after tweeting about U.S. President Barack Obama and his Republican rival, Mitt Romney, following their televised debate. The defensive lineman has contended that he did not know the term was offensive. He described the Lions' move as "the right decision" under the circumstances and said he appreciated the team's patience with him.
It wasn't the first time Mitchell, a self-trained pianist who is considered a gentle giant off the field and ferocious on it, has caused controversy this season. The CFL suspended him for two games for twisting Edmonton offensive lineman Simeon Rottier's arm and causing an elbow injury. Mitchell was also fined an undisclosed amount by the league for making throat-slashing gestures in another game against the Eskimos.
"I've learned I'm a lot more important just than I probably thought I was," said Mitchell, who majored in communications at East Carolina. "I just thought I was a regular athlete coming out here and I could do anything I want and just play football. But I can't, because I'm the all-star guy. I'm the defensive tackle. I'm the throat-slasher. I'm the big mean D-lineman. There's a lot more to me than just Khalif Mitchell and football, and I have to get acclimated to that now."
General manager Wally Buono said last week the whole organization was embarrassed by Mitchell's tweet, and running back Andrew Harris said it was embarrassing to have a teammate who lashes out in such a fashion.
Mitchell, 27, who is in his third season with B.C. after changing his mind on accepting a contract from the NFL's Miami Dolphins, has apologized for the Twitter post — but added he has no regrets about what happened.
"I don't have any regrets because I learned something," he said. "So many times, even last week, I was hasty to apologize and not hasty to explain my learning process. … I was miseducated and then I became educated, and that is the golden thing, I think, out of all of this that is not necessarily talked about. … People can actually come out of their box and wake themselves up as a society."
Including himself among the group, Lions coach Mike Benevides said the whole team has to learn from Mitchell's action.
"I just think it's something that needs to be done, because at the end of the day, we all come from different backgrounds," said Mitchell, echoing sentiments that Buono expressed last week. "We all come from different walks of life."
Mitchell indicated he expects to play this Friday against the Stampeders in Calgary, but Benevides said he has to go through "the process" of workouts this week before a starting spot is confirmed. The Lions recorded eight sacks without Mitchell and injured fellow defensive lineman Eric Taylor (ankle) against Edmonton as they clinched first place in the West Division.
Benevides indicated the team has moved on from the controversy, describing it as last week's disciplinary issue.
Meanwhile, veteran receivers Geroy Simon (hamstring) and Arland Bruce (concussion) returned to practice after missing the previous three games with injuries. Simon declared himself fit and said he expects to play against the Stampeders. However, Bruce said he will sit out the game for precautionary reasons.
Notes: Bruce confirmed that he was diagnosed with a concussion. Until now, he has been described as having concussion-like symptoms. ... Mike Reilly is expected to make his second straight start at quarterback for the Lions as starter Travis Lulay continues to recuperate from a shoulder injury.