Buck Pierce has long been portrayed as a warrior and a gritty competitor with a toughness quotient that is off the charts.
But the Winnipeg Blue Bombers quarterback is also a role model. And at least one prominent member of Manitoba's amateur football community wonders what kind of message Pierce's possible return to the field days after suffering a concussion sends to young kids playing the game.
"It's a really, really tough situation where Buck's at right now," said John Makie, Football Manitoba's technical director. "Heck, Buck is a good friend of Football Manitoba who has been an honorary coach and is the keynote speaker at our annual dinner. He does everything we ask of him.
"But does (possibly playing so soon after a concussion) send the wrong message to young kids? I think it does."
Makie said pros such as Pierce are role models to young football players. He also respects the reality Pierce faces.
"I understand he's fighting for his job right now. That's how he puts bread on the table," Makie, an ex-University of Manitoba quarterback and current QB coach for the Bisons said. "But kids and parents have to put things in perspective and look at the long-term effects. Safety has to be first.
"Football Canada has a slogan as part of our concussion awareness: 'When in doubt, sit them out.' "
Pierce's status for Monday's game in Montreal has been a hot-button issue this week after he took a vicious hit on the chin in last Saturday's loss to the Toronto Argonauts. The club has confirmed he suffered a concussion and that they will follow all the proper concussion protocols before giving him the green light to return to the field.
All amateur football leagues in Canada follow those same protocols, and more organizations are working to educate coaches, parents and players involved in the game.
Two years ago, the Charleswood Broncos had Dr. Glen Bergeron, a professor in the kinesiology department at the University of Winnipeg and the former president of Manitoba Brain Injury Association, speak to parents about concussions.
"We don't have doctors and trainers and neurologists at our fingertips like the pros do, but what we've been told is if there is a concussion we are not to do anything for seven days," said Geordie Wilson, who coaches the Broncos' bantam team, of which his son Troy is the quarterback. "After that there is a protocol we follow that starts with running first and light contact after that.
"I've talked to my son a lot about head trauma and if something happened, of course he'd come out of the game. I don't want to not talk about it. But I also don't want to scare people.
"I think I've seen three kids diagnosed with concussions in 17 years coaching."
Mike Wynne is a dad, a football coach and a big fan of the Blue Bombers. And he doesn't openly worry about what kind of influence Buck Pierce has on his son, Zach, and his Valour Patriots atom (aged nine and 10) football team.
He does worry, however, about the quarterback's health.
"I was at the game when Buck got hurt and every time he gets hit, my wife and I look at each other and go, 'Geez, I hope he's OK,' " Wynne said.
"We've been lucky with my team. We haven't had any concussion cases in four years. To be honest, the only concussion cases we've even heard about happen at school. We just had one kid who got kicked in the head playing soccer at recess and he's out right now.
"We have a basic rule on our team with any injury: If a player isn't A-OK, he doesn't go back in the game."
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FOOTBALL Canada's Be Smart! concussion-awareness and management guideline:
Six steps to follow before allowing a player to return:
1. No activity, complete rest. Once asymptomatic, proceed to step two
2. Light aerobic exercise such as walking or stationary cycling
3. Sport-specific training (e.g. running in football, skating in hockey)
4. Non-contact training drills
5. Full-contact training after medical clearance
6. Game play