The B.C. Lions released 11 players yesterday and named starters at several positions in advance of a CFL roster deadline.
The cuts did not include a quarterback, which temporarily means B.C. intends on opening the 2009 season with four pivots. CFL clubs must get down to the 46-player limit by 3 p.m. EDT today, but can carry a seven-man practice roster.
Lions general manager and head coach Wally Buono had cast doubt on a four-quarterback roster throughout training camp because he feared there would not be enough repetitions available come the regular season. The play of rookie Travis Lulay appears to have changed his mind.
"He's been a guy who we've had high hopes for," Buono said. "He's been progressing each day and each week."
Lulay, 25, was sharp in a 31-19 preseason loss to the Edmonton Eskimos last Tuesday. In three series, the Montana State product completed 8 of 10 passes for 140 yards with one touchdown and one interception. He impressed enough in camp that the coaches inserted him into the game so they could gain more information.
"I'm trying to make the most of every chance I get," Lulay said this week.
Buck Pierce has been named the starting quarterback for the July 3 season opener in Regina against the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Backup Jarious Jackson and Zac Champion, the third stringer last year, are also on the roster.
The Lions are on the lookout for linebackers and U.S. offensive linemen, and are unsettled at tailback, where return specialist Ian Smart and rookie Martell Mallett will form a committee unless a better option emerges.
Paving the way will be Walter Stith and Dean Valli, the respective starters at left tackle and left guard.
Stith, a second-year player who made two starts last season, is charged with replacing Rob Murphy, a two-time CFL most outstanding lineman. Buono said the Lions were still looking for an import backup for tackles Stith and Jason Jimenez.
Valli, a primary backup over the past two seasons, replaces veteran Kelly Bates, one of four veterans dealt or released over the winter. Guard Jon Hameister-Ries was pushing Valli, but Hameister-Ries will likely miss a second consecutive season, this one with a shoulder injury. The Lions have signed veteran guard Bobby Singh, released by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers this week, for depth.
On defence, the Lions could rely on rotations across the defensive line.
Jeremy Gibbs has been tagged to replace nose tackle Tyrone Williams, but Buono said he will monitor that situation and could turn to rookie Jonathan Williams. At end, Ricky Foley, Nautyn McKay-Loescher and U.S. rookie Gary Butler will attempt to replace Cameron Wake, a two-time CFL most outstanding defensive player who signed with the Miami Dolphins of the NFL.
At linebacker, two former Lions are on the market and could be brought back. Jamall Johnson has been released by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers of the NFL and might return to his old job at outside linebacker. JoJuan Armour, released by the Calgary Stampeders this week, is also drawing interest.
Yesterday, veteran defensive linemen Kyle Mitchell and Caesar Rayford were among the players released. B.C. is expected to make one or two more roster moves today.