Travis Lulay coping with lost season, uncertain future

It took several years for Travis Lulay to find a home with the B.C. Lions so he wasn’t prepared to discuss his playing future in Vancouver just hours after the team announced he is out for the rest of the season with a knee injury.

It’s still “too raw,” he said.

The 33-year-old quarterback will undergo surgery on his right knee at the end of the month to repair a torn ACL suffered early in the Lions’ 41-18 win over the Montreal Alouettes on Friday. It was his first game since he was reinstalled as the team’s starter.

The club provided few details about the injury, other than to say he will be placed on the six-game injured list. Lulay was more forthcoming, explaining that surgery will not be required on minor MCL damage but that an ACL grafting procedure is necessary. That procedure will likely happen during the team’s next bye week at the end of the month.

It’s the third major surgery Lulay will face in his nine-year career with the Lions, which has led to speculation he might instead opt to retire. That’s not in the plans, Lulay said. At least not yet.

“It’s weird to think about that. Several days ago I was preparing to lead this team to a playoff spot,” Lulay told reporters after the Lions began preparations for their next game Saturday against the Calgary Stampeders. “I can come back. Whether I decide to I don’t think it’s fair for me to go there yet. I haven’t hardly absorbed all that yet. In fairness to me I wouldn’t say this is the end. Let’s put the (recovery) plan in place.”

Lulay was injured on the second offensive play of the game and admitted there was a sense of disbelief, especially considering the injury occurred just before he was tackled and not as a result of being hit by Montreal’s Branden Dozier, as had initially been reported. Lulay successfully overcame two shoulder issues earlier in his career but the Lions wanted stability in the position and eventually sought a replacement in Jon Jennings.

“It’s still kind of hard to process,” said Lulay. “I don’t want to get to the why because there’s no good why. You have an option as to how I want to mentally approach getting healthy, but it’s heartbreaking, right?”

He’s said he doesn’t want to get to a point where he’s feeling sorry for himself.

“It happens to guys all the time,” he said of injuries. “I’ve maybe taken more than my fair share but that’s the way it happens.”

If Lulay needs encouragement to undergo rehabilitation and attempt another comeback, he received it simply by looking around a locker-room full of receivers who have all undergone successful ACL surgery.

“I let him know I knew what he was going through,” said Nick Moore, who tore his ACL 13 months ago and was ready for training camp this spring. “I wanted to let him know it’s a setback but he’ll be better than he was before.”

A complication for Lulay will be the fact he becomes a free agent after the season. Lions coach/GM Wally Buono was non-committal as to whether the club would offer him another contract or discuss coaching opportunities.

“He’s got to decide for himself,” said Buono.

Surgery was not top of mind for Lulay on Tuesday. He was on crutches at practice working with Jennings and two quarterbacks being evaluated to serve as backup to Jennings and rookie Alex Ross. CFL veteran Mitchell Gale was signed by the Lions on Tuesday, along with rookie Quinn Epperly.

Buono said he would like Lulay to be with the Lions through the rest of the season, although the B.C. offence is now in the hands of Jennings.

“Any way you look at it I’ve got to perform regardless,” said Jennings. “My goal when Travis was here and when he’s not here is to play well, and by sitting out the last few games I think it’s helped me see some things.”

B.C.’s offence operated with far greater efficiency with Lulay in the lineup, however. Lulay began play last week as the CFL’s top rated passer, with three, 300-yard passing games in five appearances. Jennings was ninth among starters in passing efficiency prior to the Montreal win.

– CP

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.