For the second time this offseason, a B.C. Lions' star presumably lost to the NFL has improbably returned. Unlike Khalif Mitchell, though, who turned down the Miami Dolphins to return to Vancouver, right tackle Jovan Olafioye's decision is less his own. Much like Mitchell, Olafioye worked out for several NFL teams this offseason, but he wound up signing a contract with the St. Louis Rams and looked all but gone. However, it came out late Thursday night that the Rams had "released him from his contract due to their concerns about a medical issue," according to Olafioye's agent Dan Vertlieb. It's a very curious move, but one that may provide a massive boost to B.C.'s offensive line this coming year.
There's no word on exactly what caused Olafioye to fail his NFL physical, but Vancouver radio station News 1130 is reporting that a NFL source told them it's a kidney issue. Whatever the problem is, though, it's remarkable that it would cause Olafioye to fail a NFL physical. He's been playing high-level football for years, both in college and then in the CFL over the last couple of years, and hasn't been observed with significant health issues. In fact, Olafioye has quickly become one of the league's most dominant linemen; after a strong rookie campaign in 2010, he did an even better job in 2011 and was selected as the West Division's Most Outstanding Lineman. From what we've seen on the field over the last couple of years, there sure doesn't seem to be much inhibiting his performance.
Moreover, it's remarkable that whatever issue popped up was sufficient to persuade the Rams they didn't need Olafioye. NFL teams have long been willing to work with players with various medical conditions, some of which even prohibit them playing under certain circumstances. A case in point is Pittsburgh Steelers' safety Ryan Clark, whose sickle-cell trait caused him to undergo hospitalization and lose approximately 30 pounds the last time he played in a high-altitude game in Denver. Clark's now on the sidelines when his team plays in Denver, and was in street clothes for Pittsburgh's playoff loss to the Broncos this year, but that hasn't prevented him from being a capable and productive player in the Steelers' other games. The same has gone in plenty of other cases. If a player's good enough to play in the NFL, there are usually ways to work around whatever specific medical conditions he may have, which is what makes this situation so unusual.
Regardless, the Lions shouldn't look a gift horse in the mouth. Olafioye obviously will need further evaluation for whatever caused him to fail the NFL physical, and he shouldn't be suiting up for B.C. until both he and the team have a clear idea of what the medical issue is and what the risks are, but just because he didn't fit into the NFL's standard medical box doesn't mean he can't play football. He's proven over the last couple of years that he can be a very effective player at the CFL level, and if the team's medical staff clear him, it seems quite likely that he'll continue that for the next while. The NFL's loss here may well be the CFL's gain.