ULLRICH: Right time for Lulay move, just ask Wally

There’s so many other more logical ways when in search for some pithy analysis about the move to start Travis Lulay for the B.C. Lions once again.

A call to Matt Dunigan or Giulio Caravatta. A close look at the numbers, or perhaps, the medical charts. Contract status. Marketing. Plenty of ways to start the debate.

You could do all that, or you could just leave it to Wally Buono to provide instant analysis on the morning after he was forced to tell Jon Jennings for the second time in his young CFL career that he needs to watch for awhile.

Here’s Buono, once again in Canadian Football Hall of Fame quote form, asked by the Winnipeg Free Press why he pulled the trigger on the move just three games into the season in advance of Saturday’s rematch against the Blue Bombers.

“You were at the game last week, weren’t you? I’m not that smart and you’re not that dumb. Most people aren’t surprised; most people aren’t questioning the decision. Most people are saying, ‘if they’re a BC Lions fan, what took you so long’? ”

Make no mistake, TSN is missing out if they can’t get the retiring coach away from his grandkids for the odd stint on the panel next year.

There’s definitely been an element of the Lions fan base who had been saying much the same thing about Jennings almost since the day he threw four interceptions in a game last August in Saskatchewan.

If the decision-making by Jennings wasn’t getting him down, it certainly seemed as if it was having an effect on everyone else. Ever since the 41-8 loss to the Riders, Jennings arguably hasn’t been the same, unable to beat any team other than Montreal or Winnipeg.

Jennings had cut down on interceptions but it also had the net effect of limiting his effectiveness with the number of shorter throws he was making as he tried to adapt to a new scheme under offensive coordinator Jarious Jackson.

So the coach had to make a move and can only be thankful the Lions have a viable alternative under contract, which again points out the value of depth at the position.

There’s still a reasonable chance that Jennings will be needed before the year is out, based on injuries sustained at the position and by the quarterback who is replacing him.

But neither Lulay nor Buono are of the opinion the new quarterback behind centre is being rushed back and the Lions are in desperation mode before Labour Day.

“Shoot, it’s time,” Lulay said, explaining how he had gone from describing himself from being 90 per-cent ready to fully committed in a matter of days. “You don’t put a plan in your head, you just got be ready when the opportunity calls and the team needs you. It’s funny the timeline worked out for me.”

Just like that, nearly 10 months of rehab work that is never seen in the outside world is dismissed until Lulay is asked whether he ever doubted he could make it back to start a third time in his Lions career.

And it is only then when it becomes clear that no matter what lies ahead, Lulay is ready to face the future, because should he suffer a major injury for the fourth time Jennings will be needed by the Lions yet again. With this team, it’s just how things roll.

Lulay spent almost half his off-season rehabilitation following late September ACL surgery without a contract as a pending free agent. It provides perspective Jennings can only hope to achieve, albeit with fewer injury setbacks.

“When you hear someone say they tore they ACL you just think, in 10 months he’ll be back. That’s how you view it on the outside. But when you’re that person, you know what that next 10 months entails,” said Lulay.

“I’m at a stage of my life that stuff doesn’t overwhelm me. If I was done (last year) I was done and I was OK with it. But when I sat down (to sign a new contract) there were no guarantees. It’s funny: When you start to turn the corner (in rehab) you start to remember …. there was a time when I couldn’t jump over a line with my foot.”

Only one thing remains for Lulay, and it’s the one thing that hasn’t happened to him since Branden Dozier and John Bowman of the Alouettes met him seconds into the quarterback’s last game for the Lions in September.

Lulay hasn’t even come close to taking a hit since the injury, which means no accurate analysis of the decision to change quarterbacks can be rendered until he does, unless of course his team has a coach who can also serve as an analyst.

Buono thought for weeks that one of the biggest obstacles facing Lulay would only be eliminated when he takes a shot from an opponent. It’s something that never happened once to Matt Nichols when he made his return from injury for Winnipeg last week against B.C. and was a source of embarrassment to the Lions every bit equal to their inability to throw for 200 yards.

“ I hope Travis gets hit early so he knows he’s ok,” said Buono. “Matt Nichols must not think he’s OK because he didn’t get hit, so I think Travis is going to be at a huge advantage.”

Analysis like that you can’t get anywhere else.

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