Lions lean on faith after Lulay injury

Do not be afraid or discouraged; the Lord your God is with you wherever you go

                                                                                                                               –Joshua 1:9

The scripture passed along in a note from Wally Buono to Jon Jennings a couple of weeks back is undoubtedly the same message that could now be passed to another man of faith, Travis Lulay.

The quarterback whose stay with the B.C. Lions has been littered with injuries on his resume took another horribly cruel turn again Friday and potentially could be required to muster his inner resolve yet again if he must contemplate his football future once and for all.

A formal conclusion awaits MRI results however a preliminary diagnosis from the medical staff led by Dr. Bob Macormack, according to an eye-witness, is that the 33-year-old was told at halftime he had suffered a torn ACL.

There is a strong chance that Lulay may not be able to complete his ninth CFL season, and when he tried to put on a brave face following the first quarter injury he naturally didn’t want to even speculate whether he wanted to put in the rehabilitation often associated with a devastating blow.

Jennings helped stabilize a season that had been careening out of control. He helped the Lions look like the Harlem Globetrotters to their version of the Washington Generals and posted a 41-18 win over the Montreal Alouettes.

But everything the Lions did in moving to 15-3 at home since 2000 over Montreal almost seemed pointless from the moment Lulay was forced to watch the game from behind the bench with a set of crutches at his side.

It seemed so very different only moments earlier and in the days following Buono’s decision to give Lulay another chance to first run the Lions offence. Lulay had repeatedly stated how much stronger he had felt following his previous multiple shoulder injuries.

Now his right knee failed him as he tried to make a cut on the artificial surface at B.C. Place Stadium and perhaps for that reason Lulay seemed a bit incredulous as he tried to gather his thoughts, which did not come effortlessly for one of the few times in his Lions career.

“Kind of shocked more than anything,” he said as he described the play which led to his latest injury. “I went to cut inside… I felt my knee shift. It happened before the contact. There’s significant damage. Things happen. I’ve obviously dealt with stuff like this before. It’s personally disappointing.

“It’s hard to understand. It’s not for me to understand. It’ll make more sense to me one day down the road, but I’m happy though for this team. Jon’s been through a lot mentally and for Jon to look like the Jon to old so there’s a little bit of solace to know our football team is back. I can be personally disappointed and stoked at the same time.”

From the moment Jennings entered the game, the Lions had an altered focus.

“We were playing for Travis tonight,” said receiver Bryan Burnham. “We’re going to rally around him and it’s going to motivate us going forward. He’s going to get through this.”

Jennings threw touchdown passes to Chris Rainey and Emmanuel Arceneaux within his 295-yard relief job, and had his only interception called back due to a penalty by the woeful Alouettes.

The mental state of the 25-year-old who again becomes the Lions starter was perhaps supported by the note of encouragement sent to him during the bye week by the equally-spiritual Buono, who was concerned Jennings would over-analyze why a change of quarterbacks after a three-game losing streak was necessary.

“Wally is a man of faith. I am too. It was his acknowledgement and doing something above and beyond is something that means a lot. A lot of people don’t know about Wally is he really cares about people. (He’s) more about a coach that makes hard decisions. It was a nice gesture to know he cares in his own way.”

Buono isn’t finished making gestures with Lulay either, telling the veteran quarterback he wants him to continue travelling with the team, starting with their next date Sept. 17 against the Calgary Stampeders. Lulay does not have a Lions contract beyond this season, and Buono has often referred to him as a coach, a position which may get formalized for him in the months ahead.

“I want him to understand we want him to be part of our team. He might be the life coach for Jonathan,” said Buono. “Life isn’t fair. Here’s a guy who has gone through so much, who gets back on top and has is taken away from him again. Professional sports is cruel. There’s no justice.”

Sometimes there’s only the scriptures.

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.