Kevin Glenn's fill-in role with the B.C. Lions took on greater importance Friday as they prepared for their 2014 CFL season opener.
The Lions placed starting quarterback Travis Lulay on the six-game injured reserve list in advance of Saturday's game against the Edmonton Eskimos at B.C. Place Stadium. The move means that Glenn, a 14-year veteran who has built a standout career by being a stand-in, will start for the Lions in more games than planned, barring injury.
"It takes the pressure off of (Lulay), it takes the pressure off the club. a It's just the smartest thing to do," said Lions coach Mike Benevides.
Glenn, a 35-year-old Detroit native, was acquired from the expansion Ottawa RedBlacks in an off-season trade to help offset the effects of Lulay's off-season shoulder injury. Benevides was even more grateful for the deal which he sincerely dubbed "the trade of the century" after he admitted the club "miscalculated" Lulay's recovery period.
It was already known that Glenn would start against the Eskimos, but Lulay, who was placed on the one-week injury list at the start of this week, was expected back soon. Now Lulay, who took part in a walk-through Friday, can not practise with the team for at least four weeks under rules that were revised by the new collective bargaining agreement between the league and players association.
Glenn went 10-3 with the Calgary Stampeders last season while helping them post a 14-4 record that was the best in the CFL. But despite a 66.6 per cent completion rate that was the second highest of his career, he was made available in the expansion draft.
Balked at being a backup
The RedBlacks claimed him, but he balked at being a backup with the first-year club after it signed former Hamilton Tiger-Cats quarterback Henry Burris. Glenn was in limbo before the Lions sent a 2014 first-round pick to Ottawa for him on May 13. He has quickly made an impression with B.C. by helping his new club go unbeaten in two exhibition games.
"The guys have gravitated to him," said Benevides. "He's a guy that's overcome a lot of obstacles. He's a winner. He took his team to a championship game (in Calgary in 2012 and Winnipeg in 2007.)"
Glenn, who will try to bring the Lions back to glory after his Stampeders beat them in the 2012 Western Final, says he's thankful for his chance with B.C.
"I think it's a pretty good situation," he said before the club revealed Lulay's revised status. "I get an opportunity to continue to keep playing. I get an opportunity to be on the field. a It's just an opportunity to put forth an effort to help a team win in that capacity of the team."
Glenn's acquisition has emerged as the most important of several changes made by the Lions, who lost former backup quarterback Thomas DeMarco to Ottawa in the expansion draft and veteran signal-caller Buck Pierce to retirement. He is the only healthy Lions quarterback with CFL experience, but has felt comfortable with the schemes injected by new offensive co-ordinator Khari Jones, who was a teammate and coach while they were with Hamilton.
"I think we're on the right track," said Glenn. "Nobody ever won the Grey Cup in Week 1. But at the same time, you want to see progress, and I've seen it from the time we started (training) camp until now — and I expect us to keep going up that road."
Added B.C. receiver Courtney Taylor: "With (Glenn) here, it's almost like we didn't miss a beat."
The third-year Lion attributes Glenn's success thus far in B.C. to his familiarity with Jones and his experience.
"He's familiar with the offence," said Taylor. "That's one of the key things why we haven't missed a beat. He came in. He knew where guys were supposed to be. He'll tell you where you're supposed to be."
With Glenn set to guide the club for a third of the season, if not longer, the challenge now is for the Lions to start proving they can adapt to other changes as smoothly — notably on the offensive line where rookies Andre Ramsey, a 28-year-old left tackle from Ball State and T-Dre Player, a 22-year-old Winnipeg native who played at Northwestern State, will start at left tackle and left guard, respectively.
Despite limited experience playing together, centre Matt Norman does not have any concerns about the new-look offensive-protection unit.
"Throughout all of training camp, we've had guys rotating in and out of positions, and everybody has shown their worth and their capability to earn those spots," he said.
Quarterback protection will also be a key issue with the Eskimos under new coach Chris Jones and their extensively revamped playing and coaching ranks as they try to improve on a disappointing 4-14 record last year. The Eskimos will also start two rookie offensive linemen in left guard Tony Washington, a 28-year-old Abilene Christian product and Andrew Jones, a 21-year-old out of McMaster.
Mike Reilly, who was sacked more than any other CFL quarterback last season and put on about 20 pounds of muscle in the off-season to help him withstand hits better, looks forward to seeing how Edmonton's offensive and defensive schematic changes, and such personnel additions as free agent cornerback Pat Watkins from Toronto, play out against the Lions.
"They've been good changes," said Reilly. "They've been changes to help us become a championship football team."