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Brink thinks he’s a lock as Buck’s backup... Elliott says different

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Here is, without a doubt, a pretty good competition going on in Winnipeg Blue Bombers training camp right now for the backup quarterback position.

Alex Brink thinks he’s the No. 2 man — and undoubtedly he is, at least right now. "I feel like the body of work from last year and the confidence from the coaching staff and organization when I re-signed that (being the No. 2) is the expectation going in," Brink said Thursday.

 Joey Elliott, on the other hand, thinks the No. 2 job is still up for grabs, which is also probably true.

 "I think it’s open for anybody. Different days, different people are playing, depending on what they need on a given day," said Elliott.

 So yeah, in other words, there is a battle for the backup job. But it’s just that — in stark contrast to last year — there doesn’t seem to be much of a sense of urgency to the whole thing.

 And the principal reason for that, of course, has to do with the very different perception that everyone — fans, teammates and the Bombers front office — has of starting quarterback Buck Pierce this spring.

 It was just 12 months ago at this time, you may recall, when the question of whether Pierce would ever play again — much less start 18 of the club’s 20 regular season and playoff games and lead the Bombers to the 2011 Grey Cup game — was still very much in the air.

 No quarterback in pro football history — at least as far as the Bombers training camp staff could determine — had ever returned to play again after dislocating the elbow of his throwing arm, as Pierce did on Labour Day, 2010.

 And so not surprisingly then, the question of who would back Pierce up at training camp last year had an urgency that came with the very distinct possibility that the backup could very easily — and very quickly — become the starter. And yet in the end, it wasn’t Pierce who went down with a season-ending injury in 2011, but his backup, Elliott, who won the No. 2 job over Brink coming out of camp only to shred his knee in relief of an injured Pierce in Week 3.

 In the end, Pierce started 16 of 18 regular season games, while Brink started the other two for the Bombers. While the Bombers lost both games Brink started — Sept. 30 to Montreal and Nov. 5 to Calgary — Brink was capable in relief and surely has the upper hand in the backup battle this year.

 It’s just that no one is really talking about it. Indeed, Pierce says he cannot recall the last time someone asked him about his elbow — a question that was so frequent at this time last season that the Bombers PR department actually declared a moratorium on any further questions on the subject.

 "I never even think about it anymore," says Pierce. "And if someone does bring it up — ‘How’s the elbow?’ — my first reaction is, ‘Elbow? Oh yeah, my elbow.’" Now, Pierce’s long and somewhat infamous CFL history of injuries extend beyond the state of his elbow and included — even last year — a string of ailments that included a nasty bout of bruised ribs that just didn’t seem to want to fully heal.

 The point is that regardless of the current state of Pierce’s elbow — he thinks his right arm is actually stronger now than it’s ever been — and the answers Pierce provided in 2011 to the durability issues that have dogged him, the fact remains you need a competent backup in the CFL and, as last year illustrated, preferably two. And that’s where Elliott and Brink come in — with their order the only question still remaining. Brink has taken almost all of the second team reps through five days of training camp and has looked poised. Elliott hasn’t gotten the same amount of work, but has looked solid — if a bit tender — in the reps he has been given. Justin Goltz has also gotten some work, but hasn’t played himself into the conversation yet.

 "I’m just glad to be back on the field right now," said Elliott, who is wearing a knee brace this year. "Being out so long, you feel a little bit anxiety and I was nervous at first. And I wasn’t able to be out here for mini-camp (in April) and let my teammates down. And I take that personally.

 "So it’s just great to be back out here. Because if you’re not on the field, you can’t show your teammates that you want to lead them."

 Perhaps alluding to what happened to him last year — vaulting from third string to starter — Brink said the line between the No. 2 and No. 3 is very fine in any event.

 "Anytime you’re a backup, you approach it as you’re either one play away or you’re two plays away. That’s just the way it is."

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