Drew Willy may not consider himself exceptionally tough, but his ability to bounce back from scary injuries has made an impression on his coach and teammates.
The Winnipeg Blue Bombers quarterback will be starting Thursday in a home game against the B.C. Lions after hobbling off the field with a knee injury in his team’s loss to Edmonton last Saturday.
“I’ve always healed quickly, no matter what injury it was,” Willy said after Wednesday’s walk-through practice.
“I think everyone’s a little different in that aspect. You always try to be tough. I’m not trying to say I’m tougher than anyone else, I just think if I can do anything I can to push myself to get healthy, I’m going to spend that time.”
Willy injured his right knee in the third quarter of the 32-3 loss to the Eskimos, and it was the second time this season he appeared to be seriously hurt.
On July 2, Willy took a helmet-to-helmet hit in a loss to Hamilton and appeared to be knocked out. However, he said he didn’t lose consciousness and doctors cleared him to play July 10 in a win over Montreal.
Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea said he’s confident Willy is ready to play, especially because of the type of undisclosed injury he suffered.
“If he was going to be limited, we wouldn’t really want him playing,” O’Shea said.
O’Shea described the quarterback as “tough,” but not someone who takes unnecessary risks with his health.
“When these situations arise, he has a good read on what he can and can’t do and he’s honest about it,” O’Shea said.
Both teams will try to rebound from embarrassing losses last week.
The Bombers (2-3) are also on a two-game losing skid. The Lions (2-2) lost 30-27 to Toronto after squandering a 21-0 lead _ matching the largest lead the team has ever given up in a game and lost.
Winnipeg’s offensive line will have two changes this week. Patrick Neufeld is making his season debut at left guard instead of healthy Chris Greaves and Jace Daniels replaces injured Devin Tyler at right tackle.
Neufeld, who was injured in training camp, echoed his coach and teammates about Willy’s resiliency.
“He’s a tough player and he’s an ultimate competitor,” Neufeld said. “He’s the leader of our team and it’s situations like this that really make him our leader.”
It’s key to keep Willy upright, which could be challenge against B.C.’s defenders, especially their tenacious linebackers, Neufeld said.
Willy noted the Lions’ defence starts with linebackers Adam Bighill and Solomon Elimimian.
“We need to know where they are at all times,” Willy said.
On the flip side, B.C. has only allowed a league-low three sacks and Winnipeg five.
Their quarterbacks are matching up well at this point of the season.
Travis Lulay has completed 82 of 129 pass attempts for 950 yards with seven touchdowns and two interceptions. Willy is 74-of-104 for 994 yards with five TDs and two picks.
Bombers receiver Nick Moore won’t be playing his former team as O’Shea said he’s out with an undisclosed injury that’s day to day. Rookie Justin Veltung will take his spot.
The Lions will have 11-year veteran defensive back Ryan Phillips back in the lineup after he missed three games with a hamstring injury.