The status of Mike Reilly and three other quarterbacks are making for some very interesting storylines heading into the CFL playoffs.
The 12-6 Eskimos host the 10-8 Saskatchewan Roughriders in the West Division semifinal Sunday with the winner to visit Calgary in the division final Nov. 23. But there is uncertainty regarding who’ll be under centre for Edmonton.
Reilly was the starter for all 12 of Edmonton’s victories this season but there are reports he suffered a broken bone in his foot during the Eskimos’ 37-3 win over the B.C. Lions on Nov. 1.
Reilly didn’t play in Edmonton’s 24-17 loss to Saskatchewan on Saturday as the club had already clinched second place in the West. Third-stringer Pat White suffered a head injury in the game and is also questionable for this weekend.
If the six-foot-three 230-pound Reilly can’t play, Matt Nichols will start for Edmonton. Nichols is a five-year CFL veteran but 0-3 as a starter this season.
Eskimos GM Ed Hervey was unavailable for comment Tuesday. On Monday, he told Edmonton radio station 630 CHED that the club was still gathering medical information on Reilly but, ’We do have reason to be concerned.“
The Eskimos were off Monday and Tuesday and are scheduled to resume practising Wednesday.
Matt Scott was Edmonton’s third-string quarterback against Saskatchewan. If neither Reilly nor White can play Sunday, the Eskimos will have to find a new No. 3 behind Scott.
Reilly threw for 3,327 yards and 16 TDs this season, completing 64.6 per cent of his attempts with 11 interceptions. Reilly was also the league’s top-rushing quarterback with 616 yards (7.8-yard average) and eight touchdowns.
Nichols had a 62.3 per cent completion average (94-of-151) for 1,014 yards but threw more interceptions (five) than TDs (four). He also ran for just 41 yards on 16 attempts (2.6-yard average) with two touchdowns.
Edmonton isn’t the only team with quarterback issues.
The Saskatchewan Roughriders have begun their playoff preparations unsure whether incumbent Darian Durant or veteran Kerry Joseph will start in Edmonton. Durant hasn’t played since Sept. 7 after suffering an elbow injury in a 30-24 win over Winnipeg.
Saskatchewan was 8-2 with Durant in the lineup but just 2-6 without him as Joseph was the starter in Saturday’s win. Durant was recently cleared to return to practice.
Head coach Corey Chamblin expects the star pivot to be on the Riders’ 46-man roster but will wait until Thursday to decide Durant’s status for the playoff game. Chamblin said a best-case scenario would be to have both Durant and Joseph available to play against Edmonton.
“I think having those guys in either order is good,” Chamblin told reporters. “And if one of the guys starts to struggle a bit then we have something to go from there.
“That’s the thought right now. Hopefully it gets to that point because they’re our two strongest quarterbacks and they’re both starting quarterbacks and have a lot of experience.”
Experience would certainly be an asset for the Riders, who face the Eskimos for the third time since Oct. 19. Edmonton won two of the meetings but the defending Grey Cup champions halted a five-game losing streak Saturday.
“I think it comes down to how your roster is set,” Chamblin said. “What’s your personnel, who is playing, who is not playing?
“Both teams will come with (new) wrinkles and if you can survive their wrinkles and be stout (against their attack), then that team will win.”
There’s also quarterback news in the East Division semifinal involving B.C. and the Montreal Alouettes. The Lions have placed veteran Travis Lulay on their 46-man roster, allowing him to resume practising. Lulay, who guided B.C. to the ’11 Grey Cup title, re-injured his right shoulder Sept. 5 in a win over Ottawa. It was Lulay’s first start in almost a year.