When he signed up for another detox cure and another nine months in the hell of the hotel, Travis Lulay knew that there were no guarantees at the end of his trip.
Oh, he knew there would be a lot of pain. And frustration. And uncertainty. And when he had doubts about it, they were expelled five weeks after the operation when an infection ended up in his surgically repaired right knee. The subsequent scope was performed on Halloween when his wife Kim and three daughters were trick-or-treating. Jonathon Jennings, the man he would replace as starter of the Lions, took him from the hospital after the procedure.
Somehow this all seems to fit.
"If you asked him if he would save it now, then I suspect he would have said no," said agent Lulay and good friend Dan Vertlieb.
But apparently no one asked him that question.
Instead, Lulay opted for the same game plan he had used at other times in his career when the football gods tried to send him a message. He did not look at the mountain he had to climb. Instead, he looked at that first step.
Well, he knows that there are still no guarantees and this can all end tomorrow.
But this tells you everything you need to know about Lulay. He has peace with what was and what will be and just to stand here on this day, talk about the next game, talk about his boys, represent everything he ever wanted from his decision to try again.
"I asked myself:" Do I want to do this? "Said the quarterback of the Lions after a recent Lions practice." And I thought, "Yes, I think so." After all I have experienced, I still wanted to play and now is the best feeling to be on the field.
"I thought:" I go through the surgery and rehabilitation and then see where we are. "I think that was the best way to do it, my biggest priority was that I wanted to have a healthy knee for the rest of my life."
He has something more out of the bargain.
Lulay is about to tackle his sixth consecutive game as starter of the Lions, and although he has not taken the CFL by storm, there is a bigger story going on with the 34-year-old veteran. Still in the training camp he was still unclear about his playing status and what he could and did not contribute to the field. It was a similar story when the lions approached him about starting in week 4 after Jennings had made a rocky start.
Since then, Lulay has provided a skilled professional game that seems to have stabilized his team, even while pursuing greater success. On the way to Saturday's meeting with Saskatchewan, Lulay passed an average of just under 300 meters per game, throwing six touchdown passes against four interceptions and a 90.6 efficiency score.
Along the way, he led the Lions to comeback victories at Winnipeg and Edmonton at home, but ran short of losing his way in Ottawa, Calgary and last weekend in Toronto. Again, this story can still happen in different ways and Lulay is aware of everything that is in play.
But he also knows that the Lions have the Roughriders this weekend and that is his whole focus.
"Is this worthwhile?" He asked rhetorically. "Maybe I'll think about that later, at the moment I'm at the moment." Wally (Buono) screamed for the fact that he recently started working slowly in practice and I thought about that. "
Lulay's return to the role of starter was so seamless that you forget almost everything that has come his comeback. This off-season represented his third attempt to return from a major operation. He came back from the previous two operations, both with his shoulder throw, and last year he was on his way to a storybook season when he tore his knee against the Alouettes in week 11. Until then, he had collected the Leos to a 6-5 rating and led all CFL quarterbacks in efficiency rating. Then he cut his knee on a seemingly innocent running and ended the season of both he and the lion.
Yet it was his performance in that handful of matches last season that told him that he still had some football left in his body. In February, the week for free broadcast, the Lions entered a contract offer and here we are.
"It's invaluable," said Lions attacking coordinator Jarious Jackson of Lulay's presence. "Even if he did not play, he would help us, it's just who he is and his knowledge of the game, for me you have to have guys like him if you're trying to build your team."
Of course it helps that he can still play a bit.
"I hardly played in 2016, but I enjoyed the year before, just being with the guys and being a leader in the team," Lulay said. "I thought it would be okay if it were this year, I did not know if I had a chance to play, I knew nothing was guaranteed, now I have this opportunity."
And you do not have to ask what it means to him.
Saskatchewan Roughriders at B.C. Lions
19:00, B.C. Place stadium, TSN, TSN 1040
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