CFL

DeMarco gets backup nod for now as Lions open camp

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The Canadian Press
6/2/2013 8:27:53 PM
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KAMLOOPS, B.C. -- As backup quarterbacks go, he's not an obvious choice.

Thomas DeMarco completed only nine of 13 passes for the B.C. Lions in 2012, but other than starter Travis Lulay, he has more experience with the CFL club than any other signal-caller on the roster.

Exactly one season.

So DeMarco, a second-year pro, has the inside track on the Lions' No. 2 quarterback position -- for now.

"I've got a headstart with that," he said Sunday as training camp opened. "Anyone who's been here for a little bit should be a little bit farther ahead."

DeMarco is listed as No. 2 on the depth chart, but he and coach Mike Benevides stopped short of saying the backup job is his to lose.

"I would never say that," said DeMarco. "But I would say that, as a competitor, when that spot is open, the first thing you're thinking about is that 'I wanna be that guy."'

He's vying for the backup spot with Joey Elliott, who spent three seasons with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers until he was released. Chris Hart, a product of Florida-based Webber International who signed in April, is also vying for a job behind Lulay.

Benevides says DeMarco has as an edge on Elliott as the former Blue Bomber learns the B.C. offence.

"Certainly, (DeMarco) has got the inside track," said DeMarco. "There's no doubt about it. But I am not going to commit to that -- either way -- for a long time. I need more information. I want go through the pre-season games."

The No. 2 spot became vacant when former backup Mike Reilly was traded to the Edmonton Eskimos in January. Reilly's departure, inevitable after Lulay signed a lucrative new contract, makes the backup QB battle the most compelling storyline at training camp.

"There's no doubt that this game, this league is about the quarterback," said Benevides. "You need strength at the backup position. Normally, they are called upon at some point in the season, and we have to find who that guy is.

"There's a lot of important decisions to make, but the quarterback position is, certainly, the one that's going to get the most attention, and is important to the quality of our depth."

Reilly excelled on the field in Lulay's absence, but the former Lions backup was also a strong sideline presence. He bounced ideas off the No. 1 signal-caller and gave him feedback.

A loose, talkative character who was quick with a jab, Reilly had a close relationship with Lulay, both professionally and personally.

Lulay believes DeMarco can fill the role, with the No. 1 quarterback noting that his understudy has become more assertive as he approaches his second season. DeMarco agreed with the assessment, adding more of his personality will be displayed as the season unfolds.

"The biggest thing is, last year I didn't want to speak up or say things unless I knew (the offence)," he said. "I want to make sure I'm teaching the guys the right way. Otherwise, I was very quiet ... Now that I know, I'm a bolder person in general."

DeMarco wants to provide the same "supporting act" as Reilly did, while still being himself.

"You definitely have to balance," he said. "This is Travis' team. As a quarterback, you're used to having your team, coming from college. It's a humbling experience to understand that guys have been doing this for a long time.

"Firstly, I have to learn to be a backup. It's not something that I've ever done, and it's going to take a little bit of getting used to what's helpful for Travis. I'm a different player from him."

Benevides says that Elliott, whose obvious appeal is his CFL experience, also has a loose personality, similar to Reilly, that can suit the team well. Stressing that all of the quarterbacks are simply learning from Lulay, Elliott adds he can provide a calm presence when called upon.

Based on his brief time with the organization, Hart faces long odds to stick with the team. He joined the Lions in April following former NFLer Rudy Carpenter's release. Benevides says Hart likely would not be at camp if Carpenter had stayed around longer.

The Lions will go with three QBs on their active roster, but Benevides is still deciding whether he will keep one more on the practice roster.

B.C. also has new quarterbacks coach Jarious Jackson, a former B.C. and Toronto backup who retired after helping the Argonauts win the Grey Cup last season.

"For me, I saw the relationship that Mike Reilly had with (Lulay), and that quarterback position is extremely critical and vital, and it needs constant eyes," said Benevides. "Adding (Jackson) to that is going to really help Travis Lulay do better."

Note: Defensive lineman Adrian Awasom, acquired from Toronto in the Khalif Mitchell trade, was suspended on the weekend because he did not make it to camp due to a passport issue. Benevides says the move was just "paperwork" and Awasom still figures in the club's plans. He was attempting to depart for Kamloops from the U.S. when he discovered that his Cameroonian passport jeopardized his chances gaining re-entry. As a result, he stayed south of the border for the time being.

CFL Football (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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