VANCOUVER — Quarterback Travis Lulay says he’s relieved to sign a one-year deal with the B.C. Lions but isn’t sure if he will have recovered from off-season knee surgery in time for the start of training camp.
“To know the Lions value having me back, and I have an opportunity to play another year for the franchise … that’s a relief and an encouraging thing,” Lulay said in a telephone interview Monday.
Lulay said his recovery is “on track.”
“Everyone is encouraged,” he said. “That being said, there is a lot of work ahead.
“I’m not afraid of the work, I just know there is plenty ahead.”
Lulay, a former CFL most outstanding player, was scheduled to become a free agent on Tuesday. An agreement was reached after he sat down with new Lions’ general manager Ed Hervey last week.
“If you get to free agency that just creates more days of unknown,” said Lulay. “I wasn’t necessarily scared of that day.”
Lions head coach Wally Buono said Lulay is valuable both as a player and a leader in the dressing room.
“Travis is a very important part of our team,” Buono said in a statement. “We saw last season that, when called upon, he can still be an elite quarterback in our league. He is a tremendous leader and we are extremely pleased to have him back in 2018.”
Lulay’s career was put in jeopardy when he suffered a season-ending injury in a Sept. 8 game against Montreal. He underwent surgery to repair the meniscus and reconstruct the ACL in his right knee.
He has spent the winter undergoing rehab, but his recovery was slowed due to an infection.
It was the third major surgery in nine years for the 34-year-old who also has dealt with shoulder injuries.
Lulay said doctors and physiotherapists have told him it takes about nine months to recover from his type of surgery. The Lions’ training camp is scheduled to begin in late May.
“It remains to be seen if at eight months … how involved will I be able to be,” Lulay said. “We won’t know more until we get within a few weeks of camp.”
The Lions play their first exhibition game June 1 and open the regular season at home June 16 against Montreal.
“I’m clearly not going to step on the field in a compromised state and the club doesn’t want that either,” Lulay said.
Last year was a roller-coaster for the Montana State product. Lulay began the season as a backup to starter Jonathon Jennings. When Jennings suffered a shoulder injury in Week 4 against Hamilton, Lulay came off the bench and threw for 436 yards and three touchdowns in a Lions’ victory.
After Jennings struggled in three consecutive losses, Lulay was given the start against Montreal but was injured on just the second play from scrimmage.
In six games last year, Lulay completed 121 of 165 passes for 1,693 yards, 10 touchdowns and seven interceptions.
The six-foot-two, 216-pound native of Aumsville, Ore., joined the Lions in 2009. In nine years with B.C., he has appeared in 128 games and thrown for 18,858 yards and 114 touchdowns.
Lulay was the league’s MOP in 2011 when he threw for 4,815 yards and 32 touchdowns. He led the Lions to a Grey Cup victory over Winnipeg that season and was named the game’s most outstanding player.
Jennings had a breakout year in 2016 but struggled last year as the Lions missed the playoffs for the first time since 1996. Part of Lulay’s role will be to give Jennings’s advice and come off the bench when needed.
“Jon and I have a great working relationship,” said Lulay. “Jon is highly motivated to be a better player than he was a year ago.”
Lulay shrugged off suggestions that signing a one-year deal opens the door for him to move onto a coaching job next season.
“I never discount those types of things but that’s not how I’m thinking about it,” he said.
Jim Morris, The Canadian Press