Rookie Jonathan Crompton was pencilled in as Edmonton's starting quarterback for their critical game Saturday against the Montreal Alouettes, but his first professional start won't happen just yet.

The team announced Saturday Mike Reilly, who has started every game for the Eskimos this season, will get the starting assignment after he was medically cleared Friday afternoon to return to play. He suffered a concussion last Saturday.

The Eskimos issued a release saying Reilly had passed standardized and mandated return-to-play protocol as set out by the Canadian Football League

That meant head coach Kavis Reed and his staff had to make the difficult decision on whether or not to play Reilly. Reed said the staff had to decide if they feel Reilly is ready to play and can do so safely.

"We've spent a lot of time talking to experts in this field," said Reed. "This week has been all about getting information to put ourselves in position to make an intelligent decision regarding Mike's safety."

One of the factors playing into the decision was the fact that Reilly has taken a lot of punishment through the first 13 games. The Eskimos have given up 44 sacks, including three in their 32-27 loss in Montreal in July. Plus, Reilly has rushed the ball 56 times, and earlier this season was cautioned by Reed to not put his head down and try for more yards, but to take the safe route and slide.

"That is obviously a part of the decision," said Reed, "whether you feel a you can protect your quarterback. That is going to be part of the decision. We're also going to have the opportunity to talk to the people who clear him so that we know the parameters."

Up in the air

Crompton has played in four games this season, completing 11 of 22 passes for 147 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He played briefly in Edmonton's loss in Montreal, completing just one of four passes for one yard and throwing an interception.

The starting quarterback shouldn't make a lot of difference to the receivers.

"It does a little bit just because you have the timing, the chemistry down with [Reilly]," said wide receiver Marcus Henry. "All our quarterbacks are capable and we're not going to miss a beat no matter who's there."

If Crompton had started he would be the 18th different starting quarterback in the CFL this season. Hamilton's Henry Burris is the only other quarterback to start every game this season for his team.

Reilly suffered a concussion a week ago in Edmonton's loss to Toronto when he took a violent head hit from Argonaut defensive lineman Cleyon Laing. Laing is the third player to be fined this season for helmet-to-helmet hits on Reilly

Reilly missed practice Tuesday but took first-team reps Wednesday and Thursday and said he was feeling no post-concussion symptoms. Crompton took most of the reps Friday and Reilly was not available to the media after the walk-through.

Aware of criticism

Reed, who said he suffered one concussion himself while playing and did not miss a game, said the Eskimos are aware of the criticism being levelled at them for even considering playing Reilly on Saturday.

"This organization is going to focus on the player's safety," he said. "Everything this organization has done has been about player safety. Not just Mike Reilly. In every situation that we've had a concussion the same protocol and procedure has been used."

The game has major playoff implications for both teams. The 3-10 Eskimos, with little hope of finishing third in the west, could pull within one win of the 5-8 Alouettes for the cross-over playoff spot. Edmonton made the playoffs last year by grabbing the cross-over berth.