For B.C. Lions quarterback Travis Lulay, it’s been a wound that refuses to mend.
Lulay can still feel the hurt from B.C.’s loss to the Calgary Stampeders in last fall’s West Final. Lulay believes the healing process will finally begin Sunday when the Lions open their 2013 CFL training camp in Kamloops, B.C.
“It was the most recent game we played so it’s still kind of on the back of your mind,” Lulay told reporters Tuesday at the Lions’ practice facility. “As a pro you have to have a short memory.
“As soon as we get back on the field ... you feel like you are starting to turn the page and really be able to focus on 2013. The excitement is in the air. For football junkies, it’s fun to starting talking X’s and O’s again.”
The Lions finished first in the West last year with a 13-5 record but their dreams of playing in the 100th Grey Cup were crushed when the Stampeders upset them 34-29 at BC Place Stadium.
“We are disappointed in the way it ended,” said Lulay, who signed a three-year contract extension over the winter worth a reported $450,000 a season. “There is a ton to be learned every single year.
“As a group and personally, I think we can grow a lot from what we experienced a year ago. I don’t think (this year) is about avenging a loss or making amends for what happened in the West Final. I think it’s about taking the lessons from a year ago, knowing what we did to get us to 13-5, but finding a way to overcome that stumble we had in the playoffs.”
Lulay, who threw for 4,231 yards with 27 touchdowns and just 10 interceptions last season, is entrenched as the B.C. starter. With no clear No. 2, the Lions are taking five other quarterbacks to camp.
The list includes Thomas DeMarco, who was on the Lions roster last year; Joey Elliott, who spent three seasons with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers before being released and signing with the Lions last week; Jarrett Brown, who joined B.C.’s expanded practice roster in October; Chris Hart, a free-agent signing who attended a Seattle Seahawks mini-camp; and Jordan Yantz, a 22-year-old from Regina who is expected to quarterback the University of Manitoba Bisons this season.
All the quarterbacks will attend the rookie camp to become more familiar with the playbook.
“I’m just going to be trying to learn as much as possible,” said Elliott. “The more times you hear the same words over and over, hopefully something sticks.
“There’s a lot to learn. You have to take that as a challenge and pick it up as fast as possible.”
Hart, who also played with the Tampa Bay Storm of the Arena Football League, will be adjusting to the Canadian game.
“I love this opportunity,” said the 25-year-old from Bradenton, Fla. “It’s a blessing. I’m glad they gave me the opportunity to come up here and enhance my ability.”
Lulay, 29, shrugged off suggestions that the lack of experience in the backup position doesn’t give the Lions much of a safety net.
“We have some good candidates,” he said. “For me, it doesn’t change what I’m doing.
“It changes maybe the culture of the position and for the team in general. I think we have some guys in place who are ready for the opportunity and want to step up.”
The Lions lost one of the team’s leaders in the off-season when slotback Geroy Simon, the CFL’s all-time receiving leader, was traded to Saskatchewan. Also gone are veterans like slotback Arland Bruce and defensive back Byron Parker.
“I’ve heard people throw the term lack of leadership around on the team,” said Lulay. “I don’t think that’s the case.
“I think the leadership is kind of dispersed throughout the team. I think there’s a lot of guys in little bit elevated roles. I can tell you there is a lot of really good vibes (on the team). I think there are guys in the locker-room who believe we have the tools to have a very good year. We are excited to go give it a run.”
In the past, some players were satisfied conceding the leadership duties to Simon, Lulay said. His absence now forces other plays to assume that role.
“What you worry about is, everything is fine when things are going well,” Lulay said. “But when you hit a stumbling block ... that’s when you are tested.
“But I think we have the guys in the room, and the personalities, that have been through adversity. That gives me hope and faith.”
Lions veterans like placekicker Paul McCallum, centre Angus Reid, and defensive end Keron Williams held a meeting Tuesday to discuss the team’s leadership.
Lulay also accepts his duties as a leader.
“I felt like I’ve been in that role since I was handed the keys,” he said. “I’ve always been very conscious of how I am perceived by my teammates.
“I know I have to maintain a positive attitude and level of work.”