He’s healthy, ready to go and his team needs a win badly, but Buck Pierce won’t play Friday night.
As expected, this reality wasn’t sitting well with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers starting quarterback.
"As a player, it’s not up to you. You have to realize that," a frustrated Pierce said after a light workout at Canad Inns Stadium Tuesday. "It’s up to the doctors and the trainers. They’ve told me over and over that I’m their guy and I can see them wanting to make sure that I get a week of practice in before going out there.
"I haven’t seen anything that would give me any indication that it was something else."
On Monday, the Bombers announced that third-year QB Joey Elliott -- and not Pierce, who was cleared to play by the team -- would make his fifth straight start when the club takes on the Calgary Stampeders at McMahon Stadium Friday night. Pierce hasn’t played since Week 3, when he went down in the first quarter of the 42-10 loss to the Edmonton Eskimos. He suffered a left foot injury on a sack and has missed the last seven games.
Pierce says he has a full grasp of the offence but understands the thinking that he might need some more time on the field before he’s able to play. He didn’t sound like a person who agreed with the decision to wait another week, though.
"It’s frustrating for me to be cleared and have to watch," he said.
Throughout his eight years in the CFL, Pierce has been quick to return to the lineup following injury – some might say too quick at points in his career. He couldn’t explain the thought process behind having him sit another week, especially with his clean bill of health and the Bombers desperate for wins.
"I don’t know. That’s for the other guys to answer," referring to interim head coach Tim Burke, offensive co-ordinator Gary Crowton, and GM Joe Mack – the people who were in on the decision to give Elliott another week.
Burke reiterated the club’s stance on the matter Tuesday, believing that it would be unfair to Pierce if he started against the Stamps. Burke indicated that no matter what Elliott does in Calgary – even if he throws for 400 yards and three touchdowns – Pierce would be getting the start next week against Hamilton (Sept. 21).
"I think it’s probably a given," Burke said. "I think Joey’s done a great job, but we feel like Buck is our No. 1 guy, and we have all along. We need to get (Pierce) a full week of practice. It’s just not fair on a short week to throw him in and put him to the wolves.
"He’s a competitor and he believes he could do it. I just think it’s better if we give him a full week of practice."
"I don’t think it would have been unfair. I’m ready to play – that’s my job," Pierce said. "I’ve been waiting to get the nod now for a while and just (waiting) to see what happens. I’m prepared. I’m ready. I think, in all the discussions I’ve had with the (training) staff and the organization, they want me back."
Burke turned surly when asked if Pierce’s status is under review the rest of the season, especially if the last-place Bombers (2-8) play their way further out of post-season hope. If Winnipeg is resigned to just playing out the string, management will have to make a decision on the quarterback position, one suspects, a suggestion the head coach had no time for.
"That’s totally ludicrous," he said. "Those who think that, it’s totally ludicrous. Buck’s our guy."
Pierce wasn’t sure what the recent development meant for his future in Winnipeg, and wasn’t overly concerned about his standing on the Bombers depth chart.
"That’s professional sports," he said. "That’s every club’s agenda. Every club wants to look towards the future – and you have to. I understand that. Do I feel like they have the best chance to win when I’m in the game, of course. So that’s mindset. Down the road, who knows what’s in store for any of us. For me, I’m always an optimist. I look at the positives, and I know if I can go out there and I can control what I can control, things work out for you."
In other news from Tuesday’s light practice:
- Burke confirmed that receiver Jade Etienne will be the odd man out when running back Carl Volny returns to the lineup. The Canadian receiver has yet to register a stat, despite dressing for the bulk of Winnipeg’s games over the last season and a half. Import receiver Isaac Anderson will dress in his spot, Burke said.
- Defensive end Jason Vega and punt returner Demond Washington were named the defensive and special teams players of the week, the league announced. Vega had three sacks and Washington scored an 82-yard touchdown in Sunday’s 25-24 loss to Saskatchewan.
- Safety Ian Logan was not at practice. He was feeling under the weather, the club said.