By Monte Stewart, The Canadian Press
SURREY, B.C. – B.C. Lions starting quarterback Travis Lulay’s recovery from off-season shoulder surgery appears to be on schedule as he takes part in the team’s mini-camp.
But with off-season signing Steven Jyles absent and his future in question, the Lions are lacking a bona fide backup with CFL experience.
Lulay limited the number of throws while only making short passes in drills Tuesday, the second day of a three-day mini-camp for offensive players at the team’s Surrey, B.C., training complex. But he was hopeful of being ready for main training camp in June.
“It’s getting better,” said Lulay. “It’s been a good couple days to come out and throw the ball around. Obviously, I’m still limited, I’m still progressing to getting back to where I need to be. But it’s been a really good measuring stick for this stage of the game.”
Lulay underwent surgery to repair a damaged labrum suffered in a collision while scoring a touchdown in September. He missed six regular-season games but was able to play in the Western semifinal loss to the Calgary Stampeders.
“I’m being cognizant of my numbers,” he said. “I’m just not over-throwing because the biggest thing is, with a shoulder, it’s such a delicate joint. Over-doing it is one of the worst things you can do.
“So I’m just understanding that it’s a progression and just taking steps up the ladder each week. This (camp) is just another part of that. The mobility, the range, is great. It’s just continuing to get that end range (i.e. long-pass) and that strength back.”
General manager Wally Buono said medical reports indicate that Lulay will be ready for the main training camp in Kamloops, B.C., and the quarterback has gone “way beyond the call of duty” in his recovery efforts.
“The camp was held at this time for a specific reason,” said Buono. ” (Part) of it was to make sure Travis could go out and do all the things that he’s been doing. Right now, it looks very promising.”
Jyles, who has seven years of CFL experience but did not play last season because his services were not in demand, was conspicuous by his absence after agreeing to terms with the Lions in April.
“I’m fine with it,” said Buono. “As I intimated before, we were going to bring five quarterbacks to this camp, and one of the things we were going to do was evaluate which quarterback we probably wouldn’t invite to the main camp. So this, right now, is just helping our decision.”
Jyles’ absence left the Lions with four QBs in the mini-camp. With new offensive co-ordinator Khari Jones beginning to implement his system, this is an important time for quarterback hopefuls to start learning the revised playbook and executing plays in advance of the club’s main June training camp.
However, the camp is voluntary for those invited. Jyles, who has three young children, is working in the Dallas area.
“I respect the fact that he put his family first,” said Buono. “Obviously, (deciding whether to pursue an unguaranteed spot with the Lions) is not an easy decision and, at this point, he felt it was just best not to leave his job.”
Since beginning his CFL career in 2006, Jyles has had two stints with Edmonton and also played for Saskatchewan, Winnipeg and Toronto.
With Jyles absent, second-year Lion Chris Hart is the only other quarterback at the camp with CFL experience. NFL veteran John Beck, 32, and Jarrett Lee, who was drafted in 2012 by the San Diego Chargers but did not play in the NFL, are also signed and taking part in the mini-camp.
Hart spent most of last season as the club’s fourth quarterback, but feels he has “improved a lot” since he took part in an offensive mini-camp a year ago.
“I don’t want to say anything (on the backup job),” he said. “I let the coaches do their job and pick who they need to pick. I’m just battling for the job and I’m going to compete. I’m going to work hard like I’m No. 1.”
“Obviously, this is a good test for him, too, because we spent a year with him,” said Buono. “Hopefully, he’s a lot more comfortable. Hopefully, even though the system is new, the verbiage is easier for him.”
Beck, a second-round selection of the Miami Dolphins in the 2007, is looking to secure regular employment with the Lions after taking a winding path to B.C. In addition to the Dolphins, he played six seasons with Baltimore, Washington and Houston. The Brigham Young University grad has started seven NFL regular-season games and thrown for 1,417 yards and three touchdowns on 140 completions.
Beck spent last season out of football. But instead of pursuing a different career, he spent his time honing his skills while enjoying extra time with his wife and their three sons and hoping for a team to call.
“I’ve gotta be honest,” he said. “I’d never really anticipated that my journey would take me to Canada. My journey started in the NFL. I thought there’d be some really good opportunities in it for me, and my journey started off in the situation you don’t want have it start off on. Go to (Miami) the worst team in the NFL and have everybody get fired. It can’t get much worse than that.
“But I’m very excited that my journey has taken me here. That’s the fun part about it. I’m excited for the opportunity that’s here.”
Lee spent five years at Louisiana State, a perennial powerhouse, where he completed 317-of-565 attempts for 3.949 yards and 32 touchdowns.
New offensive co-ordinator Jones believes that Lulay is “on track” to being ready to start the season and is not perturbed by Jyles’ absence.
“My job is to coach the guys that are out here,” said Jones. “If he shows up, then he shows up.”
Notes: The Lions were forced to find a new backup after former backup Thomas DeMarco was claimed by Ottawa in the CFL expansion draft, veteran Buck Pierce retired to become an assistant coach with Winnipeg, and Joey Elliott was released after two stints with B.C. last season. â€¦ Veteran offensive guard Patrick Kabongo, entering the option year of his contract, is not attending the camp as he works outside of football in Edmonton.