Canadian quarterback Nathan Rourke’s ‘ramp up’ to return on schedule, ‘very good chance’ he plays in Lions’ season finale

Photo courtesy: David Friedrich/B.C. Lions

Quarterback Nathan Rourke will not be in uniform for the B.C. Lions’ clash with the Edmonton Elks on Friday, but the Canadian wunderkind is on pace to return to the field for Week 21 of the CFL season.

“Definitely progress,” head coach Rick Campbell told the media this week when asked about what he’s seen from his young quarterback’s limited reps at practice. “The word I keep hearing from our medical sat staff is ‘ramp up,’ is to not go zero to 100. So, everything’s going good so far. You definitely can see this week from last week, he’s doing much more and moving around way better.”

“We’re not going to play him this week, we’re going to give him another week to do that, but it’s not a setback. It’s a part of the plan of being smart and he’s going to continue to do more at practice, even this week, but we’re going to pull him out from dressing for the game this week. We’ll see what the situation is and what happens the following week, but there’s a very good chance he could be dressing and playing the next week.”

Rourke has been out of the lineup since suffering a Lisfranc sprain to his right foot which required surgery in the Lions’ Week 11 win over the Saskatchewan Roughriders. That procedure typically requires patients to be non-weight bearing for six-to-eight weeks with full recovery ranging anywhere from three-to-six months. However, the budding superstar began practicing last week, just seven weeks after the operation.

Rourke originally expressed optimism that he would return from the injury ahead of schedule, indicating that he’d done so after undergoing surgery to repair a torn labrum while playing at Ohio University in 2018. Asked what he needed to see from his quarterback to allow him to accomplish that feat, Campbell’s response was simple.

“Number one, that medically it’s safe for him to do so; two, that he’s comfortable with playing and feels fine playing; and three, that he’s moving around and doing the stuff he needs to do,” he said. “You look at him today, it looks a lot different than last week. I know he’s itching to go and do more and the doctors are just trying to make it be smart and see the big picture and making sure that he’s got the best chance to be there for the playoffs.”

Rourke led the CFL in virtually every passing category before he underwent surgery, completing 79.2 percent of his passes for 3,281 yards, 25 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions over nine games. He also ran the ball 39 times for 304 yards and seven touchdowns, leading the Lions to an 8-1 record.

The team acquired veteran Vernon Adams Jr. via trade from the Montreal Alouettes to serve as a placeholder for Rourke and the 29-year-old has kept them afloat, producing a 3-2 record as the starter. Adams has thrown for 1,163 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions, but has struggled with consistency in several games.

Campbell is undecided about how his quarterbacks will be deployed for the season finale but anticipates that both players will see time as Rourke gets slowly reintroduced.

“I think we’ll have to decide that depending on the situation, but I think it’s going to be a deal where he wouldn’t play the whole game but he would play meaningful reps,” the coach said. “It would be getting back in there and get going, get playing, and we would do whatever is the best scenario for the playoffs of having him ready to go.”

For those looking to pencil the must-watch viewing of Rourke’s return to play into their calendars, the Lions will travel to Winnipeg on Friday, October 28. However, B.C. (11-5) must remain focused on this week’s clash with the Elks (4-13) in order to ensure their rehabbing saviour makes his playoff debut at home.