There's upside to Matt Nichols' injury for Edmonton Eskimos

With Matt Nichols's injury, Mike Reilly (above) goes into the second pre-season game (and the...

With Matt Nichols's injury, Mike Reilly (above) goes into the second pre-season game (and the regular season, likely) as the team's undisputed starting quarterback. (PERRY NELSON/QMI Agency)

GERRY MODDEJONGE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:22 PM ET

EDMONTON - Is it just me, or was Matt Nichols’s injury not the worst thing that could have happened to the Edmonton Eskimos right now?

Far from it, in fact.

Much worse would have been having one guy deemed the No. 1 quarterback out of camp, only to make it a week or two into the regular season before going down with some sort of catastrophic injury. Let’s call it a torn ACL, for simplicity’s sake.

Now, the team is left shrugging at the No. 2 guy on the bench and saying, ‘Well, looks like the job is yours now. Go out there and get ‘em. Oh, and pretend like you’re the starter we always wanted in the first place.’

Not that there is ever a good time for one — especially to a stand-up guy like Matt and what he went through during the off-season to rehab from that terrible ankle injury — but to have it happen here in training camp before a final decision was made between him and Mike Reilly certainly simplifies things.

Having those two go snap-for-snap — both good and bad — throughout training camp means they are virtually interchangeable at this point.

And in sports, timing is everything.

But like a good book with the last page torn out, we will never get to know who Kavis Reed would have chosen, or how he would have used the other guy in whatever sort of backup capacity the head coach had up his sleeve.

Instead, Reilly defaults into the chance to become the next face of the franchise the Eskimos so desperately need him to be.

It seems like Reilly was being moulded for just that, at least to begin the season, as his name was slated to start in Vancouver against his former B.C. Lions prior to Nichols going down anyway.

And it’s this second preseason game where things start amping up toward the real deal of the regular season and we’ll see Fred Stamps and Hugh Charles in the huddle with him Friday.

“The second game clearly is closer to the regular season, so some of the veterans will play a little more in that game,” Reilly said.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean Reilly was being lined up to start.

Then again, maybe he was. We’ll probably never know.

“It’s a big challenge just to not read into things and control what you can control,” Reilly said after Nichols was named the starter for the first preseason game last week. “That’s what I’ve tried to do all of camp.

“As I said from Day 1: I don’t feel it’s a competition between me and Matt, I think it’s like an internal competition — you against yourself and then us, as a team, against the CFL.”

Still, it would have been a big boost for Reilly to find he’s had a better internal competition that Nichols and feel he won the job outright instead of having it handed to him.

But think of all the bonuses now:

• There is no chance of any sort of locker-room split, where some players are Nichols guys and others are in camp Reilly, put out because one or the other didn’t get the gig.

• Reilly begins thinking, practising and being the No. 1 guy. Even if he was going about his day-to-day that way before, everybody else sees it that way, too.

• Reilly makes a bad throw and he doesn’t see the ‘other guy’ picking up his helmet on the sidelines. You know, just in case …

As for how this situation plays itself out in the future, who knows?

The Eskimos may not end up having a quarterback plucked from their roster by the Ottawa RedBlacks after all, as was the expectation heading into Edmonton’s quarterback competition this year.

And Nichols, who has already proven he can come back from a catastrophic injury, has even more time to rehab this time around than when he wrecked his ankle last November.

So don’t feel bad for him. Save your sympathy for someone like Tavoy Moore, who was lining up to be the Eskimos next big kick returner out of the backfield. Like Nichols, he hurt his knee in the first quarter of last Friday’s game. But unlike Nichols, Moore had yet to prove his ability beyond anything more than some hyped-up potential and lost his job altogether.

gerry.moddejonge@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/SunModdejonge


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