Lions will address Jennings extension; Braley hospitalized

There’s a time and place for everything but for Wally Buono and the B.C. Lions that sweet-spot moment wasn’t a Thursday morning breakfast gathering of corporate supporters marking the unofficial rebirth of another CFL season.

Indeed truth be told, top of mind for the Lions was the health of owner David Braley, who was scheduled to attend the Waterboys breakfast but instead was taken to hospital with a suspected bacterial infection, 3Downnation has learned. Braley has spent considerably more time in Vancouver since the club announced Dennis Skulsky will vacate his role as club president Apr. 1.

With that backdrop, there  was no update on a possible contract extension for quarterback Jon Jennings, but if you were to read past editions of their off-season playbook it wouldn’t all be surprising if something was announced the next time the club gathers its corporate believers just prior to the opening of training camp.

No less an authority than the Lions coach/GM said as much, tacitly admitting that though he brought on pressure himself to give Jennings a raise before becoming proven, he’ll do the right thing but only on his timetable.

The idea of even discussing a new Jennings deal in public is loathsome to the man calling the shots for the Lions but became an agenda item when the agent for the quarterback, Bardia Ghahremani, earlier this month inferred he would hold his client out of camp in the absence of a raise off his $55,000 rookie season deal.

Jennings (above) seemed far less combative when asked for his own take last month  and was much the same when approached again Thursday. “It’s definitely not the best thing you can have in the world but my agent will take care of it,” Jennings told CKWX.

Buono knew he’d have to juggle the books this winter the moment he got Travis Lulay to rework a new deal which will pay him a reported $225,000 plus play-time bonuses annually, down from $445,000 as a starter, not unlike what Henry Burris and Ottawa accomplished Thursday.

It’s just that the Lions would ideally like more time to rejig things for Jennings, which is a small underlying factor why the Lions don’t plan to bring their presumptive starter (or Lulay, for that matter) to the team’s three-day mini-camp slated for Apr. 27-29.

Bo Levi Mitchell didn’t hit the contract extension jackpot in Calgary until after he had led his team to a Grey Cup, reasoned Buono, who also invoked a similar scenario involving Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks in his defence, if only for slightly more cash.

The Lions boss reckons he should be given more time than the six starts Jennings got last year to work things out lest he has to go to Lulay or the newest pivot for training camp, Keith Price, whose signing was affirmed this week.

“We’re going to address it because it needs to be addressed,” said Buono of Jennings. “But if every player I now deem to be a starter comes to renegotiate, I can’t do that. I have a cap. We have to let things evolve a little bit.”

But in a microwave society where teams like the Lions are being asked about who’ll play nickleback or defensive end even before going to camp, leaving a starter to play on backup salary despite having two more years on his current contract has to be addressed sooner than later. And so it shall, Buono said. Just not at breakfast.

Lowell Ullrich has covered the Lions since 1999 and was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2014. He is also a contributor to TSN1040.