Blue Bomber Report Record: 7–11–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Blue need better backup plan

Quarterbacks No. 2 and No. 3 were disasters last season

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As obvious as it sounded at the time, there was meaning in a comment from Winnipeg Blue Bombers head coach Tim Burke on Saturday.

After the bulk of the team's roster decisions were made, Burke was asked to forecast some areas of improvement for his 2013 squad.

He mentioned the team's defensive secondary, the offensive line and then came up with this: "I hope our backup quarterback play (is) better than it was last year."

Well, of course he was going to say that, but name the last time you heard a coach in any sport anywhere say he needed something worse from players.

But, after the team parted ways with backups Alex Brink and Joey Elliott in the off-season, it was clear the club wanted to go in a new direction with their backups. Both had chances as starters in 2012, as No. 1 quarterback Buck Pierce managed just seven games, but neither impressed.

Justin Goltz, who has been elevated to the No. 2 role for 2013 having thrown just 14 passes over three seasons, was asked to comment on Burke's remark.

"I would anticipate that every coach would want their backup quarterbacks to play well," Goltz said Sunday. "I'm not sure what the context was, how he worded or phrased it, but you can only control what you can control on the field.

"Obviously when a backup gets an opportunity, we want to go out there and play well. I think we're all on the same page there."

The subtext of the topic is the great unknown that is Pierce's durability and how many of the 18 regular-season games he will play this season.

"I think there's a lot of pressure on the entire team to perform, not just the backup quarterbacks or the starting quarterback and the offence in general," Goltz said. "I think it's everybody. We haven't won a Grey Cup here in 22, 23 years, so there's a lot of pressure on everybody. I wouldn't necessarily single it out on one group.

"If we start doing that, we're not going to be successful as a team. We need to come together as a team and not worry about our individual selves."

The Bombers' other quarterback, newcomer Max Hall, had no hand in last year's result nor did he claim after Sunday's practice to have any great grasp of the reasons for Burke's wish.

"My job is just to get better every day and to help Buck out as much as I can with what he's doing and just keep myself prepared," said Hall, new this summer to the Canadian game. "This is Buck's team, it's Buck's season. We're going to do well on his shoulders and my job is to just keep getting better, be prepared."

And what of those preparations as this Thursday's Game 1 of the season approaches?

"I get better every day," Hall said. "Even though in that last pre-season game there were some ugly things that happened in it, I did some good things. We were going to score and we fumbled on the one-yard line. So some stuff happened but I'm seeing the field better and becoming more and more comfortable.

"I'm not going to get as many reps anymore, because Buck and Justin will take most of the reps, but the reps I get on scout team and throwing the ball in one-on-one drills, that's a chance for me to continue to shine."

Goltz, for his part, said he's 100 per cent invested in readiness.

"I'm putting every ounce of effort I have into game-planning," Goltz said on Sunday. "Spent four-and-a-half hours with the coaches yesterday. I'm seeing everything there is to see based on the pre-season and what we know about their coaching paths.

"I'm doing everything possible as an individual to prepare and to get my teammates to prepare."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 24, 2013 C3

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