1. WILL BUCK PIERCE'S BACKUP-SLASH-REPLACEMENT PLEASE STEP FORWARD?
Let's all agree on this: the Bombers' No. 1 QB -- that would be Pierce, for those of you who slept in -- is tired of questions about his durability. The press horde who covers this team is weary of writing/discussing/dissecting the issue over and over again. And, certainly, Bomber faithful have had it up to here debating it all.
But, fact is, as much as everyone loves the man, as much as he's dropped poundage to increase his elusiveness, and as much as Gary Crowton has adjusted the offensive scheme to protect the QB, bookies have made careers placing odds on things like this. How long can Pierce stay healthy? Place your wagers now.
And so it's here where Justin Goltz, Max Hall and Chase Clement have to be thrust into the conversation, just as Joey Elliott and Alex Brink were before them. Goltz is the 6-5 returnee some Bomber brass believe could be the CFL's Colin Kaepernick; Hall is the former Arizona Cardinals starter trying to revive his career and Clement is the ex-Rice star who spent time with Las Vegas in the UFL.
Today, everyone can start reaching their own conclusions after seeing these guys in action.
"I can't wait to get out here and see this place packed with people and play football again," said Hall, whose last game was a 2011 pre-season tilt against the Green Bay Packers. "Not having a chance to play in 2012 made me realize I love playing the game.
"I'm ready to play... it's doesn't mean I'm not going to make mistakes and forget a few things, but I'm excited about the opportunity. All I want to do is execute, move the ball and make good decisions.
"(In the CFL) you have to make an impression quickly and pick up on it quicker. That's why it's tough on guys to come up here and learn the game -- you have to do it so fast. But my experience in the NFL and in college prepared me for it and I think I'm right on track."
Worth noting here: Last year Elliott and Brink combined to throw for 13 TDs against 20 interceptions and even in 2011 when Pierce was healthy and helped guide the Bombers to the Grey Cup game, he had the seventh-best quarterback rating in an eight-team league.
Do the answers become crystal clear in a meaningless pre-season game? Of course not. But the cornerstones for foundation of hope can be established, even if it's just through a glimpse or two.
2. SHOULD HEFNEY WATCH HIS BACK?
The Bombers did the "he's family" thing on Tuesday, wrapping their arms around Jonathan Hefney and declaring him part of the team after his marijuana possession charge became public Monday night. But there's no secret the secondary -- and maybe Hefney in particular -- has been in the crosshairs since last season.
Consider this: A CFL source said Tuesday the Bombers were shopping Hefney a year ago. Said head coach Tim Burke of the secondary: "We didn't perform well there last year and there's a lot of really talented rookies who are really starting to get it now. It's going to be interesting to see how that plays out."
3. ONE CHANCE TO MAKE A GOOD FIRST IMPRESSION
Training camp and pre-season is all about locking down a starter's gig or simply a spot on the roster. Outside of the QB and secondary battles, Burke singled out the following areas as open for the best candidate:
- The D-line, both at end and tackle;
- The O-line, where Burke said there were a couple of battles brewing, including Paul Swiston pushing Steve Morley;
- The receiving corps, especially with Terrence Edwards on the mend;
- The kick returner gig;
- Punter, where Mike Renaud is leading but rookies Billy Pavlopoulos and Brett Cameron are pushing. Renaud will likely punt in the first half, two others in the second half with the fourth candidate to kick next week in Guelph, Ont., against Hamilton.
4. LOOKS LIKE TARZAN, PLAYS LIKE JANE...
That's an old football line Cal Murphy used to toss out to describe prospects who were dynamite in gear, but couldn't do diddly when the games began. The pre-season can make heroes of some... and expose others. Here's Burke:
"There's plenty of 'shorts' All-Americans and All-Canadians (guys who look good) that show up for camp and then they get into a game and look like a totally different player. Some guys are great athletes but won't hit anybody. Some guys can't handle the pressure of a game situation. Some guys look good because they know the receiver they're going against or the O-lineman they're going against. Then all of a sudden they come up against somebody new and don't look so hot. (Games) tell you a lot more than practice."
5. TOSSING OUT THE WELCOME MAT
Moving into new digs doesn't happen too often in a football club's lifetime, especially with the Bombers. This franchise has called two buildings -- Osborne Stadium and Winnipeg/Canad Inns Stadium -- home for almost all of their existence. Yes, there will be complaints about the beer prices, the parking and yadda, yadda, yadda. But just remember how decrepit the ol' barn looked last year.
So soak it all up, football fans: the Bombers haven't had a day like this since Aug. 29, 1953, the club's home opener in Winnipeg Stadium some 60 years ago.
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