Quarterback Mike Reilly expected to return to B.C. Lions: team president

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VANCOUVER — When the B.C. Lions return to training camp, club president Rick LeLacheur expects star quarterback Mike Reilly to be tossing the football with his teammates. 

LeLacheur told a virtual town hall for season ticket holders on Tuesday that he's "confident" Reilly will be back with the Lions when the CFL returns sometime in 2021. 

His comments come after a league source confirmed last week that the 35-year-old QB has filed a grievance against the Lions, reportedly over the nonpayment of guaranteed money.

LeLacheur said he will not discuss specific details of a player's contract, but noted that Reilly is "an integral member of the B.C. Lions football club." 

"In 2019, we signed Mike to a four-year contract because we believed in him not only as a winning quarterback but also an outstanding leader in the locker room and his desire to support our community programs. That belief has not changed," the president said. 

Reilly was a free agent in February 2019 when he signed a four-year, $2.9-million deal with B.C. following six seasons with the Edmonton Eskimos. The deal brought the native of Kennewick, Wash., back to the team where he started his CFL career in 2010.

The contract reportedly included $250,000 fully guaranteed and Reilly still expected to receive the money after the league cancelled the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Ed Hervey, who brought Reilly back to B.C., resigned as the club's GM on Oct. 16, citing personal reasons. Just 10 days later, franchise owner David Braley passed away at the age of 79.

LeLacheur said the club is working with Braley's estate to "determine the path of a new owner."

Reilly has become a face of the CFL over his decade-long career. He earned MVP honours in 2015 after helping Edmonton to a Grey Cup title, and led the league in passing yards three years in a row, from 2016 through 2018.

In 2019, he threw for 3,897 yards with 20 TDs and 15 interceptions in 16 regular-season games as B.C. (5-13) finished last in the West Division standings.

The season was "a huge disappointment to us," LeLacheur said Tuesday. 

“We did not expect to end up with such a losing record," he said. 

The dismal results led to the firing of rookie head coach DeVone Claybrooks. Former Ottawa Redblacks bench boss Rick Campbell was hired to replaced Claybrooks in December 2019. 

“I stood on the other side line playing against B.C. in 2019 and I saw it as a (team that) lost a couple of tough games early in the season," Campbell said Tuesday. "You’re not dealing with bad football players. I think it was a really good core group.” 

The team has brought in "a few more pieces of the puzzle" who will complement the players remaining from the 2019 squad, the coach added. 

“Even though we didn’t play this year, there’s a group of guys that understand what it’s like to be a B.C. Lion — and the coaches as well — and I think that's invaluable," Campbell said. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 17, 2020.

Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press