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Friday, April 15, 2016


Mike Reilly isn't content with winning just one Grey Cup title with the Edmonton Eskimos.

The veteran quarterback signed a two-year contract extension Thursday that keeps him in Edmonton through the 2018 season. And with his future now secured, Reilly said he can focus solely on preparing to help the Eskimos not only defending last year's title win over Ottawa but consistently contend for championships.

"We're not done,'' Reilly said during a conference call. "We won one Grey Cup but that was not our end-game goal, we want to build this team into something we can all be proud of and a team that's going to compete and be a challenger for that Grey Cup every single year.

"We're going to have our work cut out for us. There's been a lot of change around the league and every team has gotten better and if you want to repeat you can't stay the same. You've got to be a much better football team than you were the year before and that's our goal.''

And nowhere is change more evident than in Edmonton.

Shortly after players and coaches sipped champagne from the Grey Cup, head coach Chris Jones left to become the head coach/GM of the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Edmonton GM Ed Hervey hired Jason Maas - a former Eskimos quarterback and the Redblacks' offensive co-ordinator - as Jones' replacement.

But Reilly feels the addition of Maas will help Edmonton maintain its edge in defending its title.

"With our coaching staff, they were not part of that Grey Cup championship team,'' he said. "They're going to have no problem being motivated and keeping us players motivated to try and go out and win another championship.

"What he (Maas) brings to the table offensively, I just think we're going to be a very explosive offence. I'm very excited for that opportunity to play for him.''

The six-foot-three, 230-pound Reilly began his CFL career in 2010 with the B.C. Lions and was dealt to Edmonton in January 2013 for the Eskimos' second-round picks in the '13 and '14 CFL drafts. Reilly's 2015 season began inauspiciously as he suffered a knee injury in the club's season-opening loss to Toronto at Fort McMurray, B.C.

The native of Kennewick, Wash., returned to Edmonton's lineup in time for its 16-7 Labour Day loss to Calgary. After becoming the starter again, Reilly led the Eskimos on a 10-game win streak to end the season, with the 31-year-old capping it all off by being named the Grey Cup MVP upon completing 21-of-35 passes for 269 yards and two TDs.

Reilly finished last season completing 214-of-329 passes (65.0 per cent) for 2,449 yards with 15 TDs and 10 interceptions. He ran for 324 yards on 66 carries (4.91-yard average) with two TDs.

Reilly has completed 807-of-1,287 passes (62.7 per cent) for 9,983 yards with 56 touchdowns and 39 interceptions since joining the Eskimos. He's also run 229 times for 1,649 yards (7.7-yard average) with 11 touchdowns and 11 fumbles.

Over his CFL career, Reilly has completed 860-of-1,364 passes (63 per cent) for 10,677 yards with 59 TDs and 41 interceptions. He has also accumulated 1,771 yards rushing on 263 carries (6.7-yard average) with 13 touchdowns.

Reilly said it was an easy decision to re-sign with Edmonton. A big part of that, he added, was his relationship with Hervey.

"From the first conversation I had with Ed, I knew he was the guy I wanted to play for,'' Reilly said. "I do feel I have a great relationship with him and I think it stems just from the respect that I have for him and I believe he has for me.''

Reilly said Hervey's patience and vision were clearly evident in 2013 when the Eskimos struggled through a dismal 4-14 campaign.

"There were a lot more downs than ups, and I have to credit Ed as really being that rock,'' Reilly said. "Going through that tough time and just seeing him being an even-keeled presence and saying, 'Keep believing, we're building the foundation properly. Just keep doing the right things and it's going to pay off.'

"That's what you want to see from your leader.''

(Canadian Press)