B.C. Lions quarterback Travis Lulay (right) listens to head coach Mike Benevides during Lions practice at BC Place Stadium on Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012.
Photograph by: Jason Payne, PNG
VANCOUVER - As former head coach of the B.C. Lions, Wally Buono often reminded reporters of his philosophy in regard to player evaluation: “I don’t believe what I hear, I only believe what I see.”
Be circumspect. Observation is what matters.
That same attitude also permeates the sports media business. Seeing is integral to the job of reporting. When the ability to discover is taken away, news hounds are left only with hollow words of assurance. Such as, trust us, sore-shouldered quarterback Travis Lulay will play Saturday against the Saskatchewan Roughriders, as was stated in a news release put out by the team’s communications
“Look for the CFL’s reigning most outstanding player to take the majority of the snaps at least during the first half of Saturday’s game,” it read.
Harkening back to Buono’s words, the journalistic default mechanism is skepticism. Let’s see the proof.
None was provided Thursday, as the Lions began a period of controlled media access. Closed practices, except for the final 20 minutes when kicker Paul McCallum works on his stroke, will be the new norm at BC Place through to the Nov. 18 West Division final.
As exciting as it was to watch McCallum thump the pigskin with his usual authority, the question of Lulay’s readiness, and his progress from an injury that has kept him out of the lineup since Oct. 12, can’t be confirmed. No peeking allowed.
No chance to gauge his range of motion, the accuracy of his throws, the strength of his arm, except through second-hand information, or assurances from the man himself.
How did he look Thursday?
Unshaven, relaxed, expressive, his smile wide and his row of front teeth assuming positions like Reid, Olafioye, Archibald, Valli, Newman and Kabongo, the linemen who will protect him on Saturday. At least that’s the hope.
As for the “eye test”, a reading of his competence between the white lines, the jury is out until Lulay once again settles in behind centre.
“I threw over the top (deep passes) a couple of times,” he said. “The range is good, the stability is good, and it responded really well today. If you don’t believe me, ask the defensive guys.”
Defensive end Keron Williams gave his assessment to the interlopers after practice.
“For what they were asking from him, he put the ball where it needed to be placed,” Williams explained. “It’s just a matter of doing it at game tempo. I was at about 80 per cent today (of game speed). We weren’t going full speed to kill somebody. But he still had all the fundamentals and intangibles. The adrenalin of a game should help him to get going, too.”
Reps (the number of snaps) is another useful gauge to determine which quarterback is getting the most work in practice and thus likely to start the game. But Mike Reilly, Lulay’s backup, who could get his third straight start Saturday, was instructed to defer all questions on the matter through one voice, and that was the head coach.
“I think you’d better ask Mike (Benevides) about that one,” he said.
“They both took about the same amount of reps today,” Benevides confirmed. “We knew, earlier in the week (when practices were open to media and fans), that Mike would get a higher percentage. But they both got a good amount of work today.
The scenario was as normal as you could create. But Travis certainly got more today, because he didn’t get many earlier in the week.”
The fuss over Lulay can’t obscure Reilly’s fine performance in a pennant-clinching 39-19 win over the Edmonton Eskimos on Oct. 19. And his inner toughness was put to the test last Friday in Calgary, when Reilly was sacked seven times in a 41-21 defeat to the Stampeders. He didn’t crack but rather rose to meet the challenge.
Still, one question the Lions hope they don’t have to answer is how far Reilly can take them.
“If you ask me who we should go with, even now, I’d say ‘Travis,’” Williams said. “There’s something about him, the way he places the ball. He’s very Dickensonesque (former Lions QB Dave Dickenson, known for his superb touchdown-to-interception ratio).”
The prism through which coaches and players view their team can be completely different than the one through which fans and people in the media see.
Visual proof of Lulay’s soundness awaits. But the word is encouraging.
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