Photo: The Canadian Press
SURREY, BC — He’ll be out of the move for the foreseeable future, but quarterback Nathan Rourke nonetheless offered his teammates an emotional lift by attending Monday’s follow-up.
“Just to see his smile, man — his smile lights up a room,” said receiver Dominique Rhymes, who has a CFL-high 9 landing catches this season. “He’s bigger than just a teammate, he’s an extra brother.”
The Lions (8-1) regroup after studying that Rourke will undergo foot surgery. He sustained a Lisfranc sprain in his own foot in the fourth quarter of BC’s 28-10 highway win over the Saskatchewan Roughriders on Friday night.
Rourke, 24, of Victoria, leads the CFL in passing yards (3,281), touchdowns (25) and completion share (79.2). He has damaged the stock for many passing yards in a sport by a Canadian on a number of occasions, setting the current figure of 488 yards on Aug. 13 in a 41-40 win over the Calgary Stampeders.
His play made Rourke a serious contender for the CFL’s outstanding entrant award. On Monday, he wore a hiking boot and used a knee scooter to avoid putting any weight on his injured foot.
“I am clearly aware of how special this group is, so not having the ability to be part of it is a big disappointment,” he stated. “I wanted to have the opportunity to end it with these guys and see where this group can go.”
But veteran receiver Bryan Burnham stated that the Lions can succeed in Rourke’s absence.
“Nevertheless, we are an excellent group,” he stated. “Nathan has taken us to the next level, but we are an excellent group nonetheless.
“My pain was just with Nathan because he had a record season. It hurt when I heard the information. I actually felt physically ill. At this level of my profession, I would trade locations with him in a heartbeat.”
Canadian Michael O’Connor is now turning into the Lions quarterback. The 26-year-old Ottawa native will start his first CFL on Friday when BC hosts Saskatchewan to wrap up the home-and-home streak.
O’Connor has seen limited movement this season. He completed all 5 passes he attempted Friday night for 36 yards and is nine-of-12 for 63 yards in 2022.
“He works hard in the weight room,” stated Lions head coach Rick Campbell. “He works hard in the quarterback room to stay engaged and do his thing.
“And he is aware of the violation. He is aware of the reads Every time he ever takes up a sport or when he gets reps, he makes the right reads, he does the right checks. All these issues, suggesting he’s in it mentally.”
O’Connor said the most important thing for a backup quarterback is to always be prepared.
“I’ve worked hard,” O’Connor stated. “I’ve been saying all along that you by no means know when there will be an opportunity to return, but it will return at some point.
“It’s a shame it went like this. I feel really terrible for Nate, but at the same time, I’ve been able to keep this factor rolling.”
Burnham stated that O’Connor bore the costs of the violation on Monday.
“Nathan has set the bar very high, but I don’t think (O’Connor) thinks that is an excessive amount,” Burnham said. “I feel like he’s just coming in, willing to guide the group and the expectation is that we’ll continue what we’re doing.
“Nevertheless, we have great game makers all over the globe. I feel he will be available and lead the present. The nest is his. He took command of the huddle in walkthrough and we all notice it. You have to lean on us to go up and make gigs, and that’s what we’ll do.”
Rourke said he will have surgery once the swelling in his foot subsides, probably by the end of this week. While the Lions said on Sunday they were hopeful that Rourke would return late in the season, Campbell is not holding his breath.
“I’m of the mindset that he won’t be anymore,” he stated. “I think that’s a bonus if that happens, but we’ll see what happens.”
For now, Campbell is content material to go along with O’Connor with veteran Antonio Pipkin serving as backup. Kevin Thomson is coming off the injured record after being injured in a preseason sport, Could 28.
“We like all three of these guys,” Campbell declared. “We had been overdoing it when Kevin came out of the coaching camp and he was injured.
“And Pipkin has been a fantastic asset – in the locker room and in the conference room and out here. He is a very enthusiastic man and our boys really like him. These three guys, I know, will work hard together, and Nathan will do his job. Nathan isn’t one to really feel sorry for himself or anything like that, so he’ll be busy in every way he can over the next few weeks.’
And while O’Connor is proud to follow in Rourke’s footsteps as another Canadian starter, he is also able to play his personal sport.
“I mean, he’s very decent?” explained O’Connor. “But like I said, I’m not here to be (No.) 12, I’m here to be (No.) 11.
“It doesn’t matter what I can do to help the group win, that’s my goal.”
This report from The Canadian Press was first printed on August 22, 2022.