Former NFL journeyman Beck grateful for chance to return to gridiron

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SURREY, B.C. — B.C. Lions quarterback John Beck began this season quarantined from his teammates in a hotel due to viral hepatitis. It left him wondering about his health as well as his football future under a new head coach.

Beck worked hard to get back in top form and now he’s healthy and feeling strong again. He’s also set to make his first CFL start.

Beck will replace injured pivot Travis Lulay on Sunday against the visiting Ottawa Redblacks. The 34-year-old former NFL journeyman hasn’t started a game at any level in four years, but he’s ready to give it a go.

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“I can’t fool myself,” Beck said Tuesday after practice. “I’m an older player. Sometimes the older players don’t always get to stay on. So just the fact that I got to stay on the team, just the fact that I got to be a backup, that meant a lot to me.

“I didn’t really anticipate this type of situation happening, because (Lulay) is one of my best friends on the team and the last thing that I want to do is see my buddy get injured. But it happened and here I am. So I’m just going to go out and play football and do the best that I can.”

Lulay is expected to miss three to six weeks with a sprained knee ligament. His absence comes at a critical time for the Lions (4-5), who are third in the West Division standings.

A former Brigham Young University star, Beck was drafted in the second round of the 2007 NFL Draft by Miami and could have retired comfortably after earning millions as a backup south of the border. But after playing sparingly over six seasons with the Dolphins, Washington Redskins and Houston Texans, he still had a strong desire to play, so he came to Canada.

Beck has not started a game at the pro level since November 2011, when he played his last NFL game for the Washington Redskins against the San Francisco 49ers.

In his second season with the Lions, Beck missed B.C.’s playoff loss to Montreal last fall due to a concussion. The viral hepatitis knocked him out of training camp and this year’s pre-season.

Beck looked good coming off the bench to lead B.C. to a win in Montreal last Thursday and is being rewarded with a start.

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“I’m just grateful that I got to play football this season regardless if it was starting or not starting,” said Beck. “(Considering) the fact that a couple months ago I was wondering if football was done, I was just happy to go out there and put the helmet on in the beginning.”

Although Sunday’s game against the Redblacks (3-4) will mark his first CFL start, he has started a game in Canada before. In his second-last NFL game in October 2011, he was sacked 10 times as the Redskins fell 23-0 to the Buffalo Bills in Toronto.

“Yeah, that didn’t go too well,” said Beck. “That happens sometimes in life. So hopefully Sunday’s game goes better.”

With Lulay out, Beck is B.C.’s only active veteran QB, as well as the CFL’s oldest healthy starting pivot. Backup quarterback Jonathon Jennings and Greg McGhee, who will move to No. 3 from the practice roster on Sunday, are both rookies. Lions coach Jeff Tedford is glad to have Beck’s veteran presence under centre.

“He’s an older guy who’s played a long time and really prides himself on preparation,” said Tedford. “So he’s not going to go in there and be big-eyed about things.”

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Meanwhile, Lulay, who missed most of 2014 with a shoulder injury, said there is a “reasonable chance” he could return within the minimum three weeks.

“The timeline’s shorter (than with the shoulder), so there’s a sense of urgency from the get-go,” said Lulay.

Monte Stewart, The Canadian Press

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