Sports

Lulay returns to practice with B.C. Lions

B.C. Lions quarterback Travis Lulay passes as his teammates warm up before a CFL football game against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in Vancouver, B.C., on Friday July 25, 2014. Injured B.C. Lions quarterback Travis Lulay is anxious to return to the lineup now that he
B.C. Lions quarterback Travis Lulay passes as his teammates warm up before a CFL football game against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in Vancouver, B.C., on Friday July 25, 2014. Injured B.C. Lions quarterback Travis Lulay is anxious to return to the lineup now that he's able to practise with the team again. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
— image credit:

By Monte Stewart, The Canadian Press

SURREY, B.C. - Travis Lulay felt like a kid again Monday — at least for a little while.

The B.C. Lions quarterback, who is nearing the end of his stint on the six-game injured list, returned to practice for a few plays as his club prepared for their next game Saturday in Calgary against the unbeaten Stampeders.

"It was just fun to be able to practise again," said Lulay, who has been sidelined since the start of the season. "I've been watching for a long time. So the joke is that I've got fresh legs now."

The freshness of his shoulder, however, remains in question as he continues to recover from off-season surgery to repair a torn labrum. Lulay took part in a spring offensive mini-camp, but the shoulder was not up to strength for training camp or the pre-season and the Lions (2-3) placed him on the six-game injured list prior to their regular-season opener.

"It really is going to be depending on how the weeks go and stuff," he said. "This is still a progression for me. This is the first step into a live environment with moving parts and reading defences and all of that stuff."

Lulay was pleased with how the shoulder felt while he made short-range passes, but does not want to get ahead of himself in his recovery, which includes acupuncture along with stretching, strengthening and mobility exercises.

He is not eligible — or ready, according to coach Mike Benevides — to return for Saturday's contest, but is now allowed to take part in practice under CFL rules covering the long-term injury list.

"I have to be honest with myself and be as open and honest as I can with everybody," he said. "If I'm trying to fool people, that's not good for anybody. So I'm very open about (how the shoulder feels) and (coaches) trust me to push it to the limit — but not beyond."

Although Lulay has "pushed the limits" to be as involved as possible in practices and home and away games, he still missed "little things" like high-fives and head bumps on the field before games. Now that the 30-year-old is able to take part in practice again, he is even more anxious to return to the lineup.

"Any time you can't be in there with your teammates, that's tough to have to sit back and watch, because you want to go out there and contribute," he said. "And, even if things are bad, you want to be in the middle of all that with those guys, just so that you're going through those moments."

Until Lulay is able to return, Kevin Glenn — whose eight interceptions already exceed his total of seven with Calgary last season — will remain the man in the middle, pending any decision to go with backup John Beck. Lulay says he is confident that Glenn can rebound from his struggles last weekend in a humiliating 23-6 loss to Winnipeg last Friday.

"That's a really good trait, especially for a quarterback, because there's a lot of mental stuff that goes into playing the position," he said. "So you have to be able to move past a tough outing. (Glenn) has developed the ability to do that from his experience, just being in the league a long time. It's been cool to see."

For his part, Glenn tries to stay cool by trying to "erase" and "wash" away a bad outing. The chance to shine against the Stampeders, who left him open in the expansion draft before he was claimed by Ottawa and traded to B.C. when Lulay's shoulder woes became more apparent, does not provide extra incentive. Nor does Lulay's apparently impending return, which Glenn considers beyond his control.

"I try not to let (tough times) control how I proceed or how I function, in life or on the football field," he said. "That's just me. Some guys are different, and I think every player is different. You just have to go about it. But I don't think it's wrong for a guy to feel a certain way. I'm just as upset as anybody."

Benevides could not hide his displeasure with the mistakes and numerous penalties committed against Winnipeg. He says he wants his players to get back to playing the "disciplined football" that they did the two previous weeks in wins over Saskatchewan and Montreal.

"It's a discipline thing," he said. "It's an anger-management thing. It's finding poise."

While trying to get through their own quarterbacking woes, the Lions will try to disrupt the poise of Calgary signal-caller Bo Levi Mitchell. With seven consecutive wins dating to last season, Mitchell has equalled the CFL record for quarterback victories to start a career, shared by Jeff Garcia, and could gain sole possession of it Saturday.

Lions defensive back Ryan Phillips said stopping Mitchell's record run is not a priority. Instead, defenders want to prevent him from connecting with his receivers and apply suitable pressure on Mitchell. The Lions, he added, also need to bring their overall game up to Calgary's level.

"They're where we want to be," said Phillips.

Notes: Benevides said coaches are working with Glenn to reduce a pre-snap tendency that helps opponents read where the ball is going. Winnipeg players said the habit aided their cause, but Benevides said coaches were already "well aware" of it. … Punter Ricky Schmitt, who missed the Winnipeg game because of leg and shoulder injuries sustained while riding a motorized scooter, took part in light kicking activity and hopes to return against Calgary. Schmitt considers himself lucky to be alive, after colliding with the rear of a car, and says his days of riding a scooter are over. … Defensive lineman Khalif Mitchell, who has missed the past two games with a rib injury, had a good practice and could return against the Stampeders, according to Benevides.

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