Mike Reilly is staying put as the Edmonton Eskimos’ quarterback and promises his days as the team’s rushing leader are over.
The Eskimos announced Monday they’ve signed the 29-year-old to a contract extension through the 2016 season.
“To really have my career start here and to be able to continue that and hopefully finish my career here is something I’ve wanted since the day I signed,” Reilly said during a news conference at Commonwealth Stadium. “This is obviously a step in that direction.”
The former Central Washington star began his CFL career in 2010 with the B.C. Lions before being dealt to Edmonton on Jan. 31, 2013. And Reilly proved to be a worthy acquisition.
The six-foot-three, 230-pound Reilly started all 18 of Edmonton’s regular-season games last year. He finished second among CFL quarterbacks with 4,207 passing yards and 24 TDs for a team that missed the playoffs with a dismal 4-14 record.
Reilly also led the Eskimos — and all CFL quarterbacks — in rushing, amassing 709 yards on 84 carries for an 8.4-yard average with one touchdown.
Reilly gained most of those yards scrambling on broken plays or escaping the rush from a collapsing pocket. As a result, Reilly sustained several hard hits.
During a 34-22 home loss to Toronto on Sept. 28, Reilly took a nasty hit to the back of the head from Argonauts’ rookie defensive lineman Cleyon Laing. It left Reilly appearing wobbly as he got up and prompted concerns of a possible concussion.
During training camp, new Eskimos head coach Chris Jones — formerly Toronto’s defensive co-ordinator — worked on trying to keep Reilly upright and safe. Veteran halfback Hugh Charles was released Saturday in favour of John White, who is a better blocker and more capable of providing pass protection.
Reilly said White and newcomer Tyler Thomas will get the job done.
“I’m definitely not going to be in the top of our rushing game this year,” he said. “In this league, the way the field is set up and the way the games are played, you have to be able to be mobile, you have to be able to do some things as a quarterback to put stress on the defence.
“(But) in the first two (preseason) games our offensive line and running backs have shown they’re quite capable of taking care of that themselves.”
Edmonton opens the regular season in Vancouver on Saturday against the B.C. Lions.
Reilly said he’s learning a new system under Jones and new offensive co-ordinator Stephen McAdoo.
“The fundamentals, the mechanics of your footwork, and just your read progression is different from offences I’ve played with in the past,” he said. “I personally think it’s better but it’s something that does take a little bit to get used to.”
Reilly is also getting used to practising against Jones’ trademark aggressive, stunting defence.
“His defence prepares you as a quarterback for anything,” Reilly said. “I don’t think there’s going to be one single look from a defence this year that we haven’t seen in practice.”
Edmonton will again don No. 13 this season, which he wears in honour of former NFL quarterback Dan Marino of the Miami Dolphins.
Reilly spent time in the NFL with Pittsburgh, Green Bay, St. Louis and Seattle before coming to Canada. Last year, he was battling Matt Nichols during camp for the Eskimos’ starting job before Nichols suffered a season-ending knee injury.
Nichols will begin the 2014 season in a backup role.