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No room for high hits in CFL: B.C. Lions QB

Saskatchewan Roughriders quarterback Zach Collar is hit late by Hamilton Tiger-Cats' Simoni Lawrence after Collaros was downed by Tiger-Cats' Julian Howsare during first half CFL football game action in Hamilton on Thursday, June 13, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Peter Power

VANCOUVER – B.C. Lions quarterback Mike Reilly says no one wants to see the kind of hits that injured Saskatchewan Roughriders pivot Zach Collaros on Thursday in Hamilton.

Collaros left the CFL season opener after Hamilton Tiger-Cats linebacker Simoni Lawrence delivered a high, diving blow in the first quarter.

Collaros lay on the field for several minutes before being helped to the sidelines by trainers. He did not return to the game.

The 30-year-old missed four regular-season games and the West Division semifinal last year with a concussion.

Reilly said his Riders counterpart was in a defenceless position when he took the blow on Thursday.

“I think anybody that’s on the field in that situation should be protected, whether it’s a quarterback or any other player,” he said. “Those are the hits that we’re absolutely trying to eliminate from the game.”

Lawrence received a 25-yard roughing-the-passer penalty.

He said after the game that wasn’t trying to hurt Collaros, but couldn’t pull up in time to stop the collision.

Lions head coach DeVone Claybrooks said he knows just how hard it can be to safely escape those situations and doesn’t believe Lawrence was being malicious.

“It’s a fine line between recklessness and malice,” he said.

Asked whether a 25-yard penalty was enough to deter similar hits in the future, Reilly said he hopes it makes players think twice.

“I think (the CFL) has already made a lot of strides since the time I’ve been in this league to try to protect everybody, but especially the quarterbacks,” he said.

“But I think there’s an onus on the players, just in general, to be respectful of your fellow athlete, your fellow football player, whether they’re on your own team or the opposing team.”

There needs to be a lot of scrutiny on plays that injure players, Claybrooks said.

“At the end of the day, it’s about everyone’s livelihoods,” he said. “We play a game, but the game is a microcosm of life and you really want to be healthy.”