GUELPH, Ont. -- “If you see objectionable comments, click the ‘abuse report’ line below.”
We’ve all been to Internet sites which ask readers and contributors to report inappropriate links and obscenities.
But if you’re a fan of the B.C. Lions, where do you go to report quarterback abuse?
It’s happening with frequency to Travis Lulay, who really has only one option to lean on for emotional support after another black and blue episode Saturday against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats — former teammate and close friend Mike Reilly of the Edmonton Eskimos.
In the case of most things in life, there’s always somebody who has it worse. On the abuse scale, Reilly’s needle is permanently fixed on the right-hand side. The first-year starter is getting killed behind a shaky Eskimos line, which caused position coach Kris Sweet to go ballistic and GM Ed Hervey to place a public scapegoat, Simeon Rottier, in the pillory of shame.
The Calgary Sun described Reilly as being turned into a “pinata” after his recent two-game set against the Stampeders, the Mexican child’s game in which blindfolded youngsters attempt to strike a paper mâche horse for rewards, usually candy. In the Stampeders’ case, it was sacks — a cascade of them.
“Mike and I are still real close,” Lulay said, following the Lions’ 37-29 loss to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats at Alumni Stadium. “We phone or text back and forth every week. Our families grew very close. We still encourage each other.”
What does Lulay say to Reilly, after watching him getting sacked seven times in a game?
“I tell him the same thing I’d tell any teammate: ‘Keep battling, keep fighting,’” Lulay explained. “He’s a really tough player. He does a great job of getting back up every time. He’s a very competitive guy. Maybe that’s why we get along so well. I have the same approach. Obviously, we’re playing for the same thing (Grey Cup). But you’re always pulling for your buddies, and you want to see them do well.”
Lulay was Horatius at the bridge again for the Lions Saturday, rallying the team from a 34-8 deficit at the start of the fourth quarter to the prospect of a miracle finish with three touchdowns over the final 15 minutes, including a pair of touchdown passes to Nick Moore and Courtney Taylor.
The realized wonder, however, was that Lulay seemed to get stronger the more pounding he took. He was sacked three times, by official count, by a Tiger-Cat team which had the fewest number of quarterback takedowns (16) in the CFL, heading into the game. Hamilton also was without its sack leader, defensive end Brandon Boudreaux, who was out with an undisclosed injury.
It didn’t seem to make much difference.
Brandon Isaac twice was flagged for roughing the passer penalties while Eric Norwood and Sam Scott (Boudreaux’s replacement) had repeated clean shots at Lulay after he released the football.
“He’s (Lulay) a fierce competitor,” said linebacker Jamall Johnson, who had one of Hamilton’s three official sacks. “But he was up to the challenge. We got some hits on him early, and he just bounced right back up, to show he’s an elite quarterback. We respect him as a player. We did our best to get after him and execute our game plan.”
Lulay is the ever smiling, ever accommodating, fresh-faced visage of the Lions franchise. But underneath that cerebral presentation beats the heart of a linebacker. The football soul of Lulay sports a Mohawk, wears eye black, listens to heavy metal and regards his wounds as badges of honour.
“I want these guys to know I’m going to keep fighting for them,” he explained. “That’s why I try to bounce right up after every hit. It’s a pride thing, too. In sports psychology, you bounce up right away and move on to the next play. If you stay down, it’s going to get to you, it’s going to linger, and it’s going to affect your play. That’s how I approach it, and the guys respect that.”
Indeed, they do.
At one point Saturday, with Lulay slumped in pain at the Lions bench, trying to clear his head after another bone-rattling hit, cornerback Dante Marsh leaned over and whispered encouragement into his ear, a vignette caught by the TSN cameras.
“I told him, ‘Keep playing, we believe in you,’” Marsh explained. “We go where he goes. We got to. The pounding he took was bad. We’ve got to play better, all around. We can’t keep being so sporadic, so inconsistent. We need to make plays right out of the gate and kick the other team when they’re down.”
Twice, in the first half, the Lions were within five yards of the goal-line but got stopped cold by the Ticat defence and had to settle for a pair of Paul McCallum chip shot field goals.
McCallum was two for three on the day, missing on a 43-yard field goal attempt in the second quarter, which raised another red flag of concern about this Lions’ team. From 40 yards and beyond, McCallum can’t match the leg strength of kickers Rene Paredes of the Stampeders and Chris Milo of the Roughriders, the two teams the Lions are pursuing — and losing sight of — in the West Division.
Yet McCallum’s long-range inconsistency is just another manifestation of his team, which had the Ticats by the throat in their previous meeting, Aug. 30 at BC Place, but relaxed too soon before escaping with a 29-26 win. Cited then for being unable to close out games, the Lions reversed engines and didn’t get engaged soon enough in the rematch.
Despite some gaudy individual stats while playing catch-up — Lulay threw for 334 yards; Moore had 12 catches for 159 yards (both career bests) and a touchdown — all the Lions got for their mercurial effort was a sore and contemplative five-hour, late-night flight back to Vancouver.
“We need to find ways to be better,” Lulay said.
One positive: He’s still standing.
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