VANCOUVER - It's only the second week of the CFL season but already there is a sense of urgency among the B.C. Lions.
The B.C. offence sputtered and the defence showed little sinew in losing last week's season-opening game 44-32 to the Calgary Stampeders. It's a performance the Lions don't want to repeat when they host the defending Grey Cup champion Toronto Argonauts Thursday night at B.C. Place Stadium.
"We don't want to be the team we were last week," quarterback Travis Lulay said Wednesday after the Lions held a light workout. "You want to get better quick."
Hard-hitting linebacker Adam Bighill said the Lions have something to prove.
"We have a sense of urgency," said Bighill. "We want to come out here and prove we are a lot better than we showed.
"I think it's great we faced adversity Week One because it sets us on the right path for the rest of the season. It's better now than to be doubting yourself in Week 15."
Toronto opened the season with a nail-biting 39-34 win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. The Argonauts have not won in Vancouver since 2002.
When Argos coach Scott Milanovich looks at the Lions he sees a reflection of his own squad.
"I look at them in a similar way I look at our team," said the 2012 coach of the year. "They have a great quarterback, they have a running back that can hit the home run, they are well coached.
"They are just a good football team. I know they will be ready to play."
The game also marks the return of Khalif Mitchell to Vancouver. The volatile defensive lineman spent three seasons with the Lions before being traded to the Argos over the winter.
On the field the six-foot-five, 315-pound Mitchell is a dominating player who sometimes pushes the envelope with his physical play. Last season he was suspended for two games for hyper-extending the arm of Edmonton offensive lineman Simeon Rottier. Later he was fined and suspended again for making throat-slashing gestures.
Off the field Mitchell can be eccentric in his views and unpredictable with his comments. He was suspended by the Lions for sending racially insensitive tweets.
Mitchell initially was unhappy with being traded but has come to terms with the move.
"I'm at peace with myself," he told a group of reporters. "Coming out here, being able to play B.C., coming back regardless of all the stuff that may have happened before and the trade — the tweet, the arm, all those things all combined — just coming back and being able to settle down and have a clear conscious and be able to play.
"There are no grudges, no hard feelings. I don't have any negative emotions. I've just 100 per cent bought into what's going on with our team in Toronto and making sure we become the best team we can be."
Mitchell will put extra pressure on a Lions' offensive line that remains a work in progress. An injury to veteran Angus Reid has resulted in second-year player Matt Norman being moved to centre, a position he didn't play during his four years as an offensive lineman at the University of Western Ontario.
At right guard is 22-year-old rookie Kirby Fabien, a first-round draft pick in 2012.
Left guard Patrick Kabongo faced Mitchell in practise last season and knows what to expect come game time.
"Khalif is a good player, he's a dominant player," said Kabongo. "We are going to block him the best we can."
Head coach Mike Benevides said the Lions have not made any special preparations to deal with Mitchell.
"He is one of those things from a preparation point of view, our offence has got to be alert of where he's at and the kind of things they do from a defensive perspective," said the second-year head coach.
"We have to be prepared that way but I haven't made mention of it. They know him well and he's a friend of many. We know what kind of person he is. It's not something to really think or talk about much. I'm sure he will be excited to see us and we will be excited to see him."
One of the keys to a Lions' victory will be getting more use from running back Andrew Harris, who had just five carries for 20 yards last week.
"We need to establish a little better running game and first-down production," said Lulay. "Too many times (against Calgary) we were in second-and-13, second-and-15.
"That's tough when you play a good defence. It's tough to sustain drives."
Canadian wide receiver Shawn Gore, who was limping at practice this week, will play. Veteran kicker Paul McCallum, who missed last week's game with a groin injury, will be a game-time decision.
If McCallum can't play Hugh O'Neill will handle both the punting and placekicking.
B.C. defensive tackle Keron Williams said a win over Toronto will help erase last week's frustration.
"In our eyes it's definitely a must-win," said Williams. "Last week our mind set was nowhere near where it needed to be.
"We have a sense of urgency. We have pride. We know what's at stake."
The Lions started the 2011 season losing their first five games and were 1-6 but the team regrouped and went on to win the Grey Cup.
Veteran offensive tackle Ben Archibald wants to detour around that rough road.
"As teammates we said we don't want to do that again," said Archibald. "We ended up where we wanted to be, but it wasn't worth it.
"That was an awful six weeks of our lives. It was nasty. We don't want to get to that point when there's no need to. We feel like this is a game we want to win. We want to prove to the country who we are. Last week wasn't a true indication of that."