VANCOUVER — Quarterback Mike Reilly says he didn’t worry about the ins and outs of his contract grievance with the B.C. Lions.
After all, the business dealings haven’t changed his ultimate goal — bringing the Grey Cup back to B.C.
“I knew that things were going to get worked out,” Reilly said on a video call Thursday after it was announced that the marquee QB had reached a settlement with the Lions.
“And the reason that I knew that was that I knew I wanted to be here and I feel like that feeling is mutual between the club and myself, that they want me to be here.”
News emerged last month that the 35-year-old native of Kennewick, Wash., had filed a grievance against the Lions, allegedly over the nonpayment of guaranteed funds.
The 2015 Grey Cup MVP signed a four-year, $2.9-million deal with B.C. as a free agent in February 2019 following six seasons with the Edmonton Eskimos. The agreement was significant as it made him the CFL’s highest-paid player but it also reportedly included $250,000 being fully guaranteed.
A source with knowledge of the situation told The Canadian Press last month that when the league cancelled the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Reilly was still expecting to receive his guaranteed stipend and the grievance was filed because he had not. The source spoke on the condition of anonymity as the league, Lions and CFL Players’ Association have not publicly divulged specific details.
Ed Hervey, who brought Reilly back to B.C., resigned as Lions GM on Oct. 16, citing personal reasons. Just 10 days later, franchise owner David Braley passed away at the age of 79.
The Lions announced Thursday that Reilly has signed a new contract that will keep him with the club through the 2022 season.
The veteran quarterback is glad to put the situation behind him.
“I don’t deal with the business side of things, I deal with the football side of things,” he said. “That’s not my job. I don’t want to deal about that kind of stuff, I don’t want to worry about anything except being the best kind of player I can be and trying to lead a team.”
Much has changed since the last time Reilly and the Lions hit the field.
The 2019 season ended with B.C. (5-13) at the bottom of the West Division standings. Reilly threw for 3,897 yards with 20 touchdowns and 15 interceptsion in 16 games before a broken wrist ended his year.
After the 2019, the Lions fired rookie head coach DeVone Claybrooks and hired Rick Campbell, who had spent six seasons leading the Ottawa Redblacks.
Last week, Campbell also took on the role of B.C.’s co-general manager alongside long-time football operations director Neil McEvoy.
Reilly said he’s spoken to the coach-GM on a near weekly basis over the past year, talking not only about football but “life in general” and developing a great relationship. The quarterback is confident not only in Campbell’s leadership, but the team as a whole.
“I can’t wait to get back to work because I know what we’re capable of,” he said.
In the meantime, Reilly’s keeping busy with his family at their off-season home in Seattle. Having more than a year off from football has been strange, he said, but he’s filled the time renovating the house and doing “dad stuff,” like taking his daughters Brooklyn and Cadence to swimming lessons.
“I’ve been able to witness and be part of so many things with my girls that I would not otherwise have been able to do,” he said. “That’s been amazing.”
Reilly’s also feeling unusually healthy heading into the CFL 2021 season, scheduled to begin in June. Not only has he had time to heal, but to work out and throw, too.
“I’m healthy and, more than anything, I’m hungry, probably hungrier than I’ve ever been to get back and play,” Reilly said. “Because you don’t like to finish a season like we had in 2019. Six months of sitting on that feels like forever. But 18 months is almost unbearable.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 17, 2020.
Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press