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What's the backup plan?

Blue pray Goltz, Hall would be ready if Buck gets hurt again

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There were many compelling reasons why the Winnipeg Blue Bombers decided in the off-season to design an offence that would encase their starting quarterback in a protective box this season.

And so it is a bit bewildering that after just three weeks of the regular season, the Bombers brain trust abruptly decided this week to throw away the protective box that was the product of months of off-season planning and simply let starting QB Buck Pierce run loose with the wolves.

Now, you can argue the protective box wasn't working anyway, given Pierce has been sacked 14 times in three games. And you can argue the best defence for Pierce has always been a good aggressive offence in which he is allowed to freestyle.

But what you can't argue are two incontrovertible facts: a) Pierce has a long history of getting injured; and b) the odds of him getting reinjured rise in an inverse relationship to the protection he has.

And so it was that we went in search on Wednesday of the men who will replace Pierce as the Bombers quarterback should this little experiment with Pierce running free end as it so often has in the past: with Pierce on his back and unable to resume play.

"My role is the same as it is every week -- to be ready to go in if called upon and do what I can," Justin Goltz said Wednesday following his club's final full practice at Investors Group Field in advance of this Friday's home contest against the Toronto Argonauts.

"Obviously, freak injuries can happen at any time, whether you're trying to protect somebody or allowing them to play freely.

"I think what we were doing was affecting how our offence was executing, so we gave him full reins to just go out there and play football."

If something were to happen to Pierce this week while he is playing football, the next man on Winnipeg's depth chart is Goltz.

While Goltz has seen plenty of spot duty as part of a wildcat package for the Bombers this season -- he's got three TDs on seven rushes and was given the keys to the offence last week in Guelph on a first and goal from the seven-yard line (he scored on a keeper) -- he has yet to throw a single pass in 2013 and still has just sevem career completions in the CFL.

That is, quite literally, next to nothing.

While the Bombers coaching staff has been quite casual this week in downplaying the significance of turning Pierce loose from the pocket against the Argos, you shouldn't misunderstand that to mean they don't realize the full extent of the fire with which they're playing.

Consider head coach Tim Burke's response on Wednesday to the question of whether he is comfortable with Goltz being his starter if Pierce goes down with an injury.

"We'll have to be," Burke deadpanned. "Obviously, there's a reason why one guy is No. 1 and one guy is No. 2. And so you don't ever really want to have to go to No. 2.

"But I do think Justin will have the skills to be a great quarterback in this league. I would rather have him learn a little more before he gets in, but, you know, baptism by fire sometimes."

The alternative to Goltz as an alternative to Pierce is Max Hall, a man who's got experience as a starter at a much higher level than either of those two guys -- a little racket called the Arizona Cardinals of the NFL -- but who has almost zero CFL experience.

Being the No. 3 guy on the depth chart of a CFL team with one of the worst offences in Canada is surely not the stuff dreams are made of for a guy who started four games for the Cardinals in 2010.

But if he's growing impatient waiting for his chance, Hall wasn't exactly letting on Wednesday.

"I wouldn't say I'm frustrated. But yeah, everybody wants to play," said Hall.

"Still, right now it's still Buck's team. And even though things haven't gone the way he wanted early, I think he's working really hard to turn it around and be the quarterback of the offence he believes it can be."

paul.wiecek@freepress.mb.ca

We're live streaming the Bombers' pre game press conferences with Buck Pierce and coach Tim Burke beginning at 12:10 p.m. Watch live here.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 18, 2013 D3

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Updated on Thursday, July 18, 2013 at 10:23 AM CDT: Replaced photo

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