VANCOUVER -- The 'psycho squad' is coming to Commonwealth Stadium.
The self-described "crazy guys" who play on the B.C. Lions' special teams unit will be on a search and destroy mission for Eskimos returner Tony Tompkins from the moment they step onto the field tomorrow afternoon.
"We got a bunch of crazy guys going down (the field) and we kill them returners," said Lions' linebacker and special teams demon Carl Kidd, who practically beams with pride when talking about the special teams crew that has adopted the nickname 'psycho squad.' "Every last returner that we have played that was supposed to be good - we took him out of the game. He became a non-factor."
When the Lions and the Eskimos met in August, Tompkins became just that - a non-factor - when returning punts. On six returns, he gained just three total yards. "It's a scientific fact, we took him out of the game," stated Kidd, "and I think we are going to do it again."
But it's not just the down field pressure that's getting this high-octane, high-charged group of characters noticed. Led by speedy Aaron Lockett, this team has a strong return game.
Lockett leads the league in kickoff return yards and is third in punt return yards. He torched the Ottawa Renegades for 272 return yards in one game two weeks ago.
But Lockett isn't the only Psycho Squad member to run wild down the sidelines. Ring-leader and special teams coach Mike Benevides hits high gear on good and bad plays.
"I get extremely animated. I'm extremely intense (in a game)," said Benevides.
Added Lockett: "He wants to be in the game ... and he knows how to out-scheme coaches. Forty-two yards on one play and he wants 43 yards on the next. That is something I love about him."
Kidd also wants to play for the animated Benevides. "He goes to yelling and he slams headphone sets down, but he's a good guy when it is all said and done," said Kidd. "He's a hard-nosed coach. He asks you to do exactly what he wants and if you don't do it he's going to get on your ass.
"He'll call you out in meetings. But that is (the) type of coach I like because you understand exactly what he wants."
BODY ON THE LINE
Like every special teams coach, Benevides needs players who want to put their body on the line - and he has it this year.
"When you put Chris Hoople out there, you put Kelly Lochbaum out there, you put (Jason) Crumb out there, we've got some guys with different character," continued Lockett.
"Lochbaum is definitely one of those train-track guys. If you get in the way he is going to run you over and he takes pride in that.
"And Hoople is one of those guys you go in an alley with."
With the Eskimos in a desperate fight with Calgary and Saskatchewan for second place and home field advantage for the CFL Western Division semi-final, the pressure cooker the team is practically living in has been turned up a few notches.
Quality field position will be key tomorrow, meaning special teams will be a big factor.
Although Tompkins had just three punt return yards in early August at B.C. Place, he did have 102 yards on four kickoff returns and 51 yards on a missed field goal.
Widely regarded as one of the best in the league, Tompkins was so feared by the Roughriders last week in Regina, the Green and White purposefully kicked short several times in kickoff formation, keeping the ball out of his hands.
"Tony has a tremendous ability to get up field," said Benevides, "and once he gets around the corner he's extremely, extremely fast."
Round 2 between the 'psycho squad' and the Eskimos is set for 5 p.m. tomorrow.