BRITISH COLUMBIA

Benevides in no hurry to name Lions' starting QB for West Division semifinal

11/05/2013 06:20 EST | Updated 01/23/2014 10:52 EST
VANCOUVER - There's no disputing Travis Lulay's status as the B.C. Lions' No. 1 quarterback.

Whether he gets the start when his team visits the Saskatchewan Roughriders in Sunday's CFL West Division semifinal in another question entirely.

Lulay returned from injury last week for one series in the Lions' regular-season finale against the Calgary Stampeders, a 26-7 victory that meant nothing in the standings.

After missing the previous six weeks with an ailing right shoulder, Lulay finished 3-of-4 passing for 54 yards and also scored a rushing touchdown.

That small sample size and veteran backup Buck Pierce's strong play the last two weeks gives Lions coach Mike Benevides plenty to ponder ahead of the weekend tilt in Regina.

"Let's remember, as good as it was last week, it wasn't a lot of work," Benevides said Tuesday of Lulay's short outing against the Stampeders. "There's no doubt it's his team and Buck will tell you the same thing, but right now it's about all of us. It's not about a single person.

"As I told the guys, 'It's not about you, it's not about me. It's about us.' So whatever it's going to take to win the next game, that's what we're going to do."

Benevides added that he likely won't know the starter until after Friday's practice.

Lulay, who was hurt in a victory over the Montreal Alouettes on Sept. 15 and has been slowing rehabbing his throwing shoulder over the last number of weeks, sounds ready to go.

"I'm preparing like I am going to be the starter," said Lulay, the MVP of the Lions' 2011 Grey Cup victory. "I'm hopeful that I can demonstrate that I can make all the throws I need to make and then coach (Benevides) will have a decision to make."

Second-year man Thomas DeMarco won his first two starts in place of the injured Lulay, but lost the next three before being yanked in favour of Pierce after a miserable first quarter against the Edmonton Eskimos two weeks ago.

Reacquired by the Lions from the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in September, Pierce rallied B.C. to a 43-29 victory over Edmonton — which included three TDs through the air and another on the ground — before starting the win over Calgary.

"It's an exciting time of year. I think everyone that's on the roster has to expect to step in there and contribute," said Pierce. "Whatever my role may be, time will tell."

The Lions (11-7) were 1-2 against the Roughriders (11-7) during the regular season, winning the first meeting in September with DeMarco at the helm before dropping the last two, including a 35-14 blowout loss in Regina on Oct. 19.

Lulay didn't take part in any of those games, while Pierce saw limited action. Lions receiver Shawn Gore said the team will be confident regardless of who is under centre.

"We feel comfortable with both quarterbacks," he said. "Buck's been here now long enough. When he first got here we would have definitely gravitated towards Lulay. He's the guy we've all been playing with but we're very comfortable with Buck and we have no doubts about him."

Pierce, who began his CFL career with the Lions back in 2005, said he and Lulay have a good working relationship with only the team's success in mind.

"We're both confident in what we can do and supportive of the other guy," said Pierce. "I'm excited just for the opportunity to be part of this playoff run and this organization. I'm loving every minute of it."

Lulay said getting into the Calgary game was important in his progression ahead of the post-season.

"It was mental as much as anything — just to be able to step back in the huddle in a live situation," he said. "I felt really comfortable in there, to be honest. It didn't feel like it had been a long time."

Benevides will make the final call on Sunday's starter, but it should be noted that the Lions' coach noticed a difference in his squad with its leader back on the field.

"You know how important (Lulay) is to this football team and you just love the guy and care about him," said Benevides. "Let's understand something, him not being there certainly affected guys.

"Him being there is a tremendous, tremendous boost in order to get our ultimate prize."