Rick Campbell coached six seasons in Ottawa from 2014-19, leading the Redblacks to three East Division championships and the franchise’s first Grey Cup victory in 40 years.
Now coaching in British Columbia, he will return to Ottawa for the first time as a visitor when his Lions face the Redblacks Saturday night.
Campbell is being predictably stoic about his homecoming.
“I don’t know, I guess I’m not there yet,” Campbell told BC’s 1st and Now podcast. “I’m honestly most concerned with us just winning a football game this week, number one. So, I’ve been keeping my head down and just getting ready for this practice week and going from there. I think it will be a big deal. That was a big part of my life, that was my first time being a head coach, so I appreciate all that.
“It will be emotional once it happens. But honestly, I’m kind of on a one-track mind right now of just finding a way to win a game.”
BC is off to a 1-2 start, marred by inconsistency, but the Lions have a chance to enter their first bye week at .500 despite playing three of their first four games on the road.
“I think we’ve moved the ball at times really well,” Campbell said. “We haven’t cashed in on touchdowns as much as we like.”
The Lions lead the CFL in gaining 6.6 yards per play but scored just 16 points in last week’s home loss to the Edmonton Elks.
The offense appears to go only as far as quarterback Michael Reilly takes them. The veteran has completed over 71 percent of his passes but managed just 128 yards against the Elks, following a 342-yard performance in Week 2.
Although BC quarterbacks have thrown two interceptions this season, Reilly has yet to throw one, avoiding being picked off over his last 143 pass attempts.
Campbell is not taking his next opponent lightly despite the Redblacks again coming in last in the CFL’s weekly team rankings.
“(Ottawa’s) offense hasn’t gotten on track yet. That’s kind of been their mode right now,” Campbell said. “They’ve been better on defense so far and looking for answers on offense still.”
Campbell’s description could be considered kind.
The Redblacks are off to a 1-1 start thanks to a defense that has allowed just one touchdown in 29 drives, but the offense has gained just 300 net yards, the lowest in CFL history through two games.
Ottawa quarterback Matt Nichols has been sacked a CFL-high 10 times this season but has relied on a connection with RJ Harris, who had five catches for 101 yards in last weekend’s loss to the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
“RJ is really good, and he’s a great leader as well,” BC defensive back TJ Lee said. “(Nichols) knows a lot and knows this game. He’s going to look to capitalize on our mistakes. We need to make sure we’re all on the same page and be ready for a good matchup.”