After a frustrating 2014 that saw the B.C. Lions' quarterback re-injure his surgically repaired throwing shoulder in his only start of the season, Lulay has taken a unique approach in his continued rehabilitation.
"There's no way to prevent injury," Lulay said Tuesday. "We know that's part of the game, but you've got to train the brain to not be afraid of the next injury. You can't play tentative."
With that in mind, the 31-year-old spent part of the off-season doing a series of contact drills using bags and mats in hopes that he can withstand the next big hit, whenever it comes.
"Learning how to fall, teaching my brain that it's OK to fall and fall the right way," Lulay said in describing the regimen. "What it's about is going from a physical movement to telling my brain that it's OK. That's all part of the injury recovery process, and so far to this point its been positive."
The 2011 Grey Cup MVP originally hurt his right shoulder on a goal-line plunge back in September 2013. He came back for the Lions' playoff loss to the Saskatchewan Roughriders that year before opting for surgery, and the belief was that he would be ready for training camp last season. But his rehab took much longer than anticipated and his only start of 2014 was cut short when he injured the same joint in Ottawa against the Redblacks on Sept. 5, basically undoing the surgery.
Lulay chose rehabilitation over a second procedure after the most recent injury with an eye on returning for the end of the 2014 season. He dressed for the Lions' playoff game against the Montreal Alouettes, but was unable to play and could only watch as his teammates were embarrassed 50-17.
Along with the physical drills Lulay has done this off-season, he has been simulating game situations with new head coach Jeff Tedford, including pump fakes, throwing on the run and releasing the ball at different arm angles.
"All the stuff you need to do in a game," said Lulay, who is taking part in the Lions' three-day minicamp this week. "It's one thing to stand still and throw in place, but when it's a bit uncontrolled is where you need to be 100 per cent comfortable. That's been a progression all off-season."
Tedford, who was hired in December after B.C. fired Mike Benevides, said the idea is to get Lulay to forget about his shoulder.
"It's about playing unconsciously where you don't worry about anything," said Tedford. "So the flow of the game, whether you're getting tackled, whether you're falling, whether you're scrambling, whether you're rolling, whatever you're doing ... to get him completely comfortable with the game so he goes into the game totally free of any thought about an injury or anything like that."
Lulay, a former league MVP, is hoping to be a full participant when training camp starts on May 31.
"This (minicamp) is a big step in the right direction," he said. "I'm pleased and encouraged by what I was able to do today. Just on a personal level, I felt like I threw the ball better today than I did yesterday. I threw it with more confidence and I made more throws. That's all good."
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