VANCOUVER — The bye week into the Western Final couldn’t have come at a better time for BC Lions QB Travis Lulay.
While the shoulder injury he sustained in Week 16 is no longer a physical issue, with Lulay insisting that he is more-than-capable of leading his offence against the Calgary Stampeders on Sunday, there’s still the concern that the 29-year-old has thrown all of just 14 passes in the last four weeks combined.
Western Final Playoff Centre
The 2012 Western Final matchup is set as the BC Lions host the Calgary Stampeders. Here is everything you need to know ahead of Sunday’s game.
Still, according to Lulay, those 14 passes can go a very long way for a variety of reasons.
“I got a little bit of work in that last game and that was really good just for my confidence,” said Lulay, who is just days away from taking the next step in leading the Lions towards a second-straight Grey Cup title.
“Coming off an injury there are always a little bit of question marks until you actually go out and do it and prove to yourself that you can play at full strength. So that was really good for me,” he added.
“My shoulder feels great.”
Lions Head Coach Mike Benevides also stressed the importance of those 14 passes his quarterback had the opportunity of throwing in the team’s season-finale against Saskatchewan.
“I think he’s feeling excellent. If you take a look at some of the work he got in during that final game…that was very important for us,” said Benevides after the Lions practiced at BC Place Stadium on Tuesday.
“With Travis, he’s a very cerebral guy. He understands what he’s going to see, he understands out playbook in and out, it’s more just getting him physically ready and healthy to play and he feels good right now,” he added.
Lulay’s return to the Lions offence cannot be understated.
Prior to succumbing to injury a month ago, he was in the conversation to repeat as the league’s Most Outstanding Player, having still finished third among all starting QBs in passing yards with 4,231 despite missing almost three weeks of action.
Of the aforementioned 14 passes, Lulay completed nine of them for 88 yards.
And it’s not as though he hasn’t been around fast-paced football since then either.
During BC’s bye week, Benevides put his team through two days of high-energy, high-octane, best-on-best practices, where Lulay appeared to be back in the type of physical shape the rookie head coach hoped he’d be at.
“He had an excellent week out there,” Benevides said with emphasis.
Lulay isn’t the only offensive star who is set to make his return to the lineup. On Monday, after missing the last five games of the regular season with a concussion, veteran receiver Arland Bruce III declared himself eligible to return to the gridiron
His return, Lulay believes, not only gives the Lions extra star-power for Sunday’s tilt, but also some much-needed veteran presence that is always crucial during the post-season. “It’s great,” smiled Lulay.
“When a veteran steps back into the lineup – especially at playoff time – there’s something about that veteran presence. Knowing that the guy has been there and done that and made critical plays at the most critical times of the year that does something for the huddle, especially if something bad happens,” he added.
It appears as though the Lions are getting healthy at the right, which combined with the fact that they still managed to finish at the top of the West Division, only adds to the expectations set upon them by fans and media alike to repeat as Grey Cup champs.
Lulay, however, sees it in a totally different light.
“It’s the playoffs; these games are high-pressured games regardless, but we’ve been the team with the target on our back all year long and that really doesn’t change at this point,” he said.
“The thing that does give you some faith is the fact that we do have a lot of veteran guys on our team and this is a team that is in the same shoes as a year ago. We were the favourites, first place in the West with a home playoff game and we approached that well a year ago,” he continued.
“But that doesn’t necessarily mean anything about this season,” he added.