After completing a couple light throws early in Wednesday’s practice, Travis Lulay headed to the B.C. Lions locker-room to swap his helmet for a baseball cap as he continues to nurse sore ribs.
Out on the field, fellow quarterback Jonathon Jennings took the majority of the reps, not showing any ill effects from an injury to his throwing shoulder that has kept him on the sidelines most of the last month.
No one was saying for sure, but it definitely looked and sounded like the latter will be under centre this Sunday when the Lions visit the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
“I feel good,” said Jennings, who was hurt on B.C.’s first play from scrimmage in a road victory over Hamilton on July 15. “It takes a team to win a championship. It’s not going to be won by one person.
“When I went down, Travis came in and did a great job. I’m looking to do the same, coming back in and picking up where we left off.”
The 33-year-old is 98-of-133 passing for 1,437 yards and eight touchdowns to go along with six interceptions in four appearances, including three starts, but he took a big hit from Roughriders defensive end Willie Jefferson in the first half of Saturday’s 30-15 victory over Saskatchewan.
Lulay finished the game. The next two days were the painful part.
“His helmet caught me square,” said Lulay. “I’ve been hit harder, but maybe not as direct where I absorbed 100 per cent of his energy in my side.”
Lulay has two 400-yard passing games in 2017 – he only had two combined over his previous eight seasons – and is averaging more than 359 yards per appearance and a career-high 10.8 yards per pass attempt.
“It’s been fun and it’s been awesome to be out on the field,” said Lulay. “I’m doing everything I can right now to make myself available for my team this week. This is a little stumbling block.”
After overcoming painful injuries to his throwing shoulder that saw him severely limited in 2013 and 2014, Lulay regained the starting job in 2015, only to lose it once again after a knee ailment opened the door to Jennings.
Lulay could have tested free agency that winter with Jennings the club’s unquestioned starter, but decided to re-sign for two more years with the only CFL franchise he’s ever known.
Jennings, who turned 25 last month, had a breakout season in 2016, becoming just the fourth QB in Lions history to throw for more than 5,000 yards, and had a decent start to this year, going 73-of-109 for 853 yards and two touchdowns against two interceptions.
The Saginaw Valley State product conceded the injury to his shoulder is one that could linger, but added he doesn’t expect it to be much of a hindrance.
“I don’t know if I can put a percentage on it, but it’s not hurting too bad out here when I’m throwing,” said Jennings. “Taking a hit might not feel the best, but that’s going to happen regardless of whether I’m hurt or not.
“I’m just going to try and stay upright and get the ball out.”
Lions head coach and general manager Wally Buono also wouldn’t tip his hand as to who will start in Regina, but reflected on the favourable situation he finds himself in with two capable QBs.
“When we played in the 1970s, that’s how it was for everybody,” said Buono. “I lived under a system where they always had two starting quarterbacks and there was not reservation for the coach to move somebody if he wasn’t playing well. If there was an injury your team didn’t just fall apart.
“This is unique because in today’s era most of the time you can’t pay two starting quarterbacks.”
The Lions (5-2) have beaten the Riders (2-4) seven straight times while averaging nearly 35 points a game dating back to the start of the 2015 season, with three of those victories coming in Regina, but will be playing their first game at the new Mosaic Stadium.
“All we’re focused on is just executing – doing what we have to do to execute that play,” said Jennings. “Whether it’s me or Travis, we both know we can get the job done. We play a similar game.
“I’m looking forward to getting back out there.”