For his sake, let’s hope that Buck Pierce is simply not a man in denial.
Pierce currently has a concussion. How many he’s had in his career is an unknown to the public but certainly can’t be a mystery to the medical and football operations personnel of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
We have to trust they will act in his best interests. I’m not sure Pierce’s desire to compete and do what he loves best in this world will afford him such clarity.
After the answers Pierce provided, or rather failed to offer Tuesday, we can only surmise the likeable quarterback has had more concussions than the solitary one he admits to having had during his career.
For Pierce’s sake, let’s hope the proper precautions are being taken. Right now, I’m unsure, with the Blue Bombers contemplating using Pierce in a football game Monday and saying his condition isn’t "really bad."
Pierce, after suffering a brain injury just this past Saturday, has been unable to pass a final test the Bombers’ team of doctors, including a neurologist, have administered.
"The evaluation process is continuing every day here but he has suffered a mild concussion. We discovered that today through testing," said Bombers interim head coach Tim Burke. "He has one more test that he has to clear before he’d be cleared to play and he will be evaluated (today). And if it goes another day, he’ll be evaluated after that. However long it takes to pass that test is when he is able to play."
Burke is not a doctor and he’s made it very clear he will follow the course of action set out by the Bombers’ physicians and team athletic therapist Al Couture. Still, Burke’s next statement is troubling.
"(It’s) very disappointing in the respect that (Pierce) would have to take a hit like that, No. 1. I don’t know how many people would have come away from that hit without having some kind of an injury," said Burke. "Fortunately, it’s a mild concussion and not anything really bad. It’s nothing that’s a career-ender, by any stretch of the imagination."
As I said, Burke isn’t a doctor but he does speak on the team’s behalf. Maybe that was a mistake in this case. Depending on which concussion specialist you want to quote, there are differing opinions on if there is such a thing as a "mild" concussion. It’s brain damage. There’s no such thing as mild, according to some schools of thought, and if a person has had more than one, they can compound.
Burke, and no one else for that matter, can determine the effect this concussion will have on Pierce’s career. Until he clears the final neurological test, Pierce and the extent of his injuries are an unknown.
Pierce said he expects to return to active duty in short order.
"I feel good. I’ve felt pretty good the last couple of days. That’s a positive sign at this point," said Pierce. "The way I’m feeling (Tuesday) I expect to be back on the practice field and do what is expected of me as a quarterback and that’s be ready to go. Like coach Burke, said there is still a process and some guidelines they have to follow."
Argos linebacker Brandon Isaac drilled Pierce in the chin with a helmet-to-the-head hit in Saturday’s 29-10 loss to the Toronto Argonauts. The club has not ruled Pierce out as a player for Monday’s match in Montreal against the Alouettes. Burke has said the team will start Joey Elliott if Pierce can’t play and that the coaching staff will prepare two game plans, one for each quarterback.
"It was a cheap shot and it was dirty," said Pierce. "(Isaac) had my whole midsection and upper body to hit. He’s not trying to wrap. He’s not trying to stop the play within the confines of the rules. It’s not the way the game should be played. It was a deliberate attempt to injure."
Pierce has missed 23 games of a possible 49 during his time with the Blue Bombers due to injuries to a number of places on his body. But never once had the club, despite rampant speculation to the contrary, attributed one of his absences to a head injury.
Former Blue Bombers quarterback and Pierce confidant Matt Dunigan has counselled Pierce to consider taking a step back from football because of the number of head shots he’s taken during his career.
Pierce was asked to end the speculation concerning his concussion history on Tuesday but would not.
"I’m going to talk about this current injury. I’m not going to go into the past. The past is the past and people are going to speculate anyway," said Pierce. "People are going to throw their opinion out there whether it be right or wrong. I know the truth of it and the people that are close to me know the truth of it. The people that need to know, know the truth. And it’s not like we’re trying to hide anything. But this issue has so many things that go along with it."
Pierce was later asked how many concussions he has suffered during his time with the Bombers but again declined to address the issue.
"I’m not going to go there. I appreciate you respecting that," said Pierce, who says he doesn’t need to be protected from his own desire to stay in the game.
"No. I don’t. This is professional football. I fully understand situations that I put myself into. (The Bombers) understand that, too. If they felt that I wasn’t able physically to go out there and play or that it would be a risk for the club or for me, then they wouldn’t do that. And I wouldn’t do that. I’m not a guy that wants to go out in a blaze of flames."
Pierce was asked if he has fears about physical repercussions in later years.
"That’s the reality of the game that I have the great pleasure of playing. There are always what-ifs. As athletes, we understand that," he said. "Maybe somebody on the outside would question if it’s worth it. It’s worth it to me."
Those final words, "It’s worth it to me," are scary. Pierce says he doesn’t need someone looking out for his best interests.
With what we’re learning, I’m not sure that’s true.
— with files from Ashley Prest
Buck Pierce’s injury history with Bombers
THREE SEASONS WITH BOMBERS
Games played: 26/49 (53%)
Games missed due to injury: 23/49 (47%)
Games finished: 16/26 (62%)
Games not finished due to injury: 10/26 (38%)
GAMES MISSED BREAKDOWN
LIST OF INJURIES
July 16 at HAMILTON: Left game, sprained right knee (slight MCL tear) *Missed 3 games with knee injury
August 13 vs. HAMILTON: Left game, re-aggravated right knee injury *Missed 1 game with knee injury
September 5 at SASKATCHEWAN: Left game, dislocated right elbow *Placed on 9-game injured list; missed final 9 games of season with elbow injury
Games missed due to injury: 13
Games played: 5
Games finished: 2
Games not finished due to injury: 3
July 14 vs. CALGARY: Left game, bruised left quadriceps
July 28 vs. B.C.: Left game, strained left calf
September 24 at TORONTO: Left game, bruised ribs
*Missed 1 game with rib injury
October 28 vs. TORONTO: Left game, sprained right knee
*Missed 1 game with knee injury
Games missed due to injury: 2
Games played: 16
Games finished: 12
Games not finished due to injury: 4
June 29 at B.C.: Left game, bruised right knee
July 13 at EDMONTON: Left game, torn ligaments & torn muscle in left foot
*Missed 8 games with foot injury
September 29 vs. TORONTO: Left game, mild concussion
Games missed due to injury: 8
Games played: 5
Games finished: 2
Games not finished due to injury: 3
Source: Jon Perlberg CFL on TSN statistician