Winnipeg Blue Bombers quarterback Buck Pierce says he still believes he gives the Bombers their best chance to win and would like another opportunity to prove it next season.
But Pierce said Sunday morning as he and his team cleaned out their lockers at Canad Inns Stadium that he will understand if the team decides to move ahead without him in 2013 after a disappointing season that saw Winnipeg’s No. 1 quarterback start and finish just two games in what finished with a win against Montreal on Saturday as a 6-12 season for the Bombers.
"My mindset is get healthy, come back and be the guy," Pierce told reporters. "That’s my mindset. (But) I understand the situation that they’re going to have to do something to add depth or something might happen. But my mindset is I want to play. I feel like I’m the best chance we got . I feel like when I’m healthy and out there playing, I’m as good as anybody.
"The organization knows what I can do and they know the type of person I am and the player I am when I’m healthy. And that’s the (frustrating) part for myself and the organization. Because they’re going to have to do something to either add depth or move on and go in a different direction...
"But I’m more confident than ever in my ability and what I can do and knowing that I can lead this team and get them back to a Grey Cup. That’s my ultimate focus and that’s where my mindset is now."
The quarterback situation will be the single biggest issue confronting the Bombers in the off-season after missing the playoffs for the third time in four years, but it will hardly be the only one.
The club has a total of 11 potential free agents this winter, including six starters on defence -- defensive linemen Fernand Kashama, Jason Vega and Bryant Turner, linebacker Marcellus Bowman, defensive back Jonathan Hefney and defensive back/linebacker Johnny Sears.
All six of those men said Sunday that they would like to return to play for the Bombers in 2013, but head coach Tim Burke said realistically that’s not likely to happen.
"I would think we would want to bring most of them back. But the likelihood of bringing everyone back is not a sure thing by any stretch of the imagination. There might be one or two slip away. But certainly we’re going to make an effort," said Burke.
The other potential Bombers free agents this winter are slotback Clarence Denmark, running backs Chris Garrett and Carl Volny, backup quarterback Justin Goltz and defensive back Deon Beasley.
Burke said he told his players during his closing address on Sunday that he felt like some of them showed up complacent to training camp in 2012 after a Grey Cup appearance in 2011 and warned against a repeat of that kind of attitude next year.
"I told them that we’re going to come back and we are going to start strong next year. We cannot come back with the same attitude we had this last year when we showed up for training camp. The players approached the season as if, ‘Well, this is just going to happen every year, we’re this good and we’re always going to go to the Grey Cup.’ It doesn’t work that way."