Lucky Whitehead comfortable re-signing with B.C. regardless of Michael Reilly’s status

Lucky Whitehead signed a two-year contract extension with the B.C. Lions on Monday and felt comfortable doing so whether or not franchise quarterback Michael Reilly returns to the team in 2022.

“I was asking opinions mostly from my family, then I just kinda had to lean back on myself, just what’s best for me. We have two great quarterbacks with Mike and [Nathan Rourke], so my decision was still going to be going back to B.C. regardless of the quarterback situation,” said Whitehead via videoconference.

“Mike was definitely my guy, my decision-maker in 2021. I’m still grateful for him and wherever his future leads. He’s a great quarterback, great guy, for sure a Hall of Famer. He definitely got my career back on track.”

Canadian quarterback Nathan Rourke made two starts in his rookie season, completing 63.4 percent of his passes for 754 yards, three touchdowns, and five interceptions. Whitehead has developed quick chemistry with the 23-year-old and would feel comfortable with him heading into the 2022 season if Reilly elects not to return to the Lions.

“Nate’s a workhorse. He understands the game, he’s picking it up very well. He works hard, and I think he’ll do much, much better. He’ll understand the game a lot more. It’s kinda hard being a rookie, most definitely at quarterback. There’s a lot going on,” said Whitehead.

“I think he settled in as the season went on and I got plenty of reps with him in training camp in 2021. I’m looking forward to more reps with him. I think he’ll be fine. I’m very confident in his progression.”

Whitehead started off the year on a torrid pace — he caught 36 passes for 665 yards and four touchdowns in just seven games — before suffering a broken bones in his hand. Though he recovered quickly from the injury, it ultimately spoiled his chances of capturing any league awards.

“It was definitely a blow. I was on the right track and pace to hit numbers that I expected to hit,” said Whitehead. “I’ll just play a little smarter so I can avoid those hits and those injuries. It was unfortunate but I’m definitely looking forward to next season to do a lot more than I did in 2021.”

The 29-year-old is now the highest-paid receiver in the CFL according to TSN’s Farhan Lalji and is set to earn $200,000 in 2022 and $205,000 in 2023. He plans to improve on his numbers from a season ago as a receiver and return specialist.

“I’m ready for the workload. I enjoy special teams, it’s a time to make an exciting play, change the game. That’s the kind of player I am. I didn’t get as much returns as I would have liked in 2021, but I definitely plan on doing it a lot more. For myself, I just gotta get ready for the cardio,” said Whitehead with a chuckle.

“I want to do more returning, more punt returns at least in the future. Hopefully there’s somebody there to help me with that load, but I’m definitely willing to do both. When I’m back there I’m looking to score, so I’m trying to change the game.”

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