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Edmonton Eskimos name backup Matt Nichols as their starter for West semifinal

11/12/2014 10:44 EST | Updated 01/12/2015 05:59 EST
EDMONTON - Mike Reilly's status is uncertain heading into the CFL West Division semifinal, and the all-star Edmonton Eskimos quarterback isn't about to make it any clearer.

Matt Nichols has been named the Eskimos starting quarterback for Sunday's semifinal against the Saskatchewan Roughriders. The team said Reilly will be available to play, but he was limited in practice Wednesday and seems to still be bothered by an unspecified injury suffered in a game two weeks ago.

Reilly, who missed Edmonton's loss last weekend in Regina, told reporters in a pre-practice media session he was not going to talk about his "lower body" injury. Coach Chris Jones would say only that Reilly would be assessed as the week progressed to see how he is recovering.

"I'll be happy to answer any questions, but I'm not going to go into any details about my injury," Reilly opened the media session by saying. "At this point … I'll be available to play. Whether that's in a starting capacity or off the bench that's yet to be determined"

Reilly was throwing the ball well Wednesday but obviously did not have the same mobility as before Nov. 1, when was hurt late in the Eskimos' 37-3 win over B.C. Lions. He limped off about halfway through the two-hour practice.

"Right now it's just a lot of rest," he said. "There's some swelling to let get out. Until that happens, there's not much you can do."

Nichols, who played last week in the 24-17 loss in Regina, said he appreciated being named the starter early so he could spend the entire week preparing.

"Last week was great to knock some rust off," he said. "It's tough to sit out for a couple of months and go in and catch up to the speed of the game right away. You can mentally put yourself in the position that you're on the field. When you're backup you can't put yourself out there mentally until something happens.

"I've been up here a long time. I feel like I've seen a lot of things in this league, I know what kind of game it's going to be and I feel very prepared."

Defensive end Odell Willis said it shouldn't matter much who's at quarterback and cautioned the media not to read too much into Wednesday's announcement or rumours that Saskatchewan quarterback Darian Durant may be ready for the semifinal.

"Everybody's got to do it," he said of the game playing. "You go to Regina they're saying Durant might play and now saying Reilly might play. We'll just wait until Sunday and see who's playing then."

While Reilly's status remains uncertain, receiver Adarius Bowman and running back John White, both named western all-stars Wednesday, will return to the line up. And that, said Nichols, will make a big difference to the offence.

"Those guys are both game breakers," he said.

The win by the Riders last week was Saskatchewan's first in three games against Edmonton this season. The Eskimos won 24-0 in late September and 24-19 on Oct. 19. But last week the Riders rode a strong first-half running game to victory.

Defensive lineman Almondo Sewell said that can't happen on Sunday.

"We have to play better," he said of the defence. "That was uncommon for us, to have somebody come out and outmuscle us."

Matt Nichols will be the starting quarterback for the Edmonton Eskimos in the West Division semifinal on Sunday.

The Eskimos made the announcement Wednesday on their official Twitter account.

Speculation has swirled about the status of regular starter Mike Reilly, with reports indicating he suffered a broken bone in his ankle in Edmonton's 37-3 win over B.C. on Nov. 1.

The CFL club said Reilly will practise this week and be available to play when Edmonton hosts the Saskatchewan Roughriders at Commonwealth Stadium.

Nichols started Edmonton's 24-17 loss to Saskatchewan last Saturday in the regular-season finale.

The Eskimos had already clinched second place in the West Division.

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