Investors Group Field is a very big place.
But even in that considerable space, there was no missing the elephant hovering over the proceedings late Thursday afternoon as Buck Pierce made his return to IGF alongside his new teammates, the B.C. Lions.
And so full marks to Pierce for calling the big fella out without much prompting.
"There's no hard feelings on my part," Pierce told the assembled media as his new team got their first look at Winnipeg's new football palace.
"People must think I must be madder than heck and wanting to come here and rip this place apart. And as a competitor -- that's what you want to do. But personally? I have no ill will towards this organization or these fans."
Whether the fans reciprocate those soft and fuzzy feelings for Pierce will become clear tonight when the former Winnipeg Blue Bomber starting QB takes the field against a team that was his own until just two weeks ago when he was traded to the Lions in exchange for receiver Akeem Foster.
How the Winnipeg fans react tonight to a player with whom they've always had a complicated relationship is an interesting question. While there was never any questioning Pierce's commitment to the Bombers organization -- or his ability to win -- during his three-plus seasons in Winnipeg, a seemingly never-ending series of injuries were at least as frustrating to fans as they were to Pierce.
Perhaps acknowledging that complex relationship, Pierce predicted he'd receive a decidedly mixed reaction from Bombers fans when he takes the field tonight as the backup to Lions starter Thomas DeMarco.
"It will be a mixed bag of things, I'm sure," laughed Pierce. "That's why they're such good fans. I hope it's (rated) PG but I'm sure a lot of the Lions players will be looking at me saying, 'Man, they're on you.' "
In keeping with the theme that was never far from the surface while he was employed by the Bombers, Pierce arrived in Winnipeg Thursday something less than 100 per cent physically -- a nasty cold bug that's been plaguing the Lions locker-room of late caught up to him this week and got bad enough he missed practice on Wednesday.
But it went without saying that nothing was going to keep him from playing tonight against his former team. And make no mistake -- Pierce will in all likelihood take at least some of his team's snaps despite his backup status.
Pierce played two series last week in his first game as a Lion in relief of DeMarco -- who in turn was making just his first CFL start in relief of injured Lions starter Travis Lulay.
And what did Pierce do while he was at the Lions controls? Stop us if this sounds familiar -- Pierce was sacked and drew a roughing the passer penalty, but also completed two of three passing attempts that led to a field goal.
So in other words, Pierce took a hellacious beating, but was also effective when he wasn't staring up at the sky. Yes, just another typical day at the office for Buck Pierce.
Perhaps it was just a matter of survival, not hospitality, then that Pierce had invited all his Lions teammates, including the Lions offensive line, to have dinner on him Thursday night at the BBQ joint Pierce co-owns in town, Danny's BBQ and Smokehouse and Buck's Sports Lounge.
"We're going to take care of them and have a good meal," said Pierce. "I've opened it up to everybody that wants to come eat."
Now, just to be clear -- offering to foot the tab for an entire team of football players is not a small gesture on the part of Pierce and his business partners and Pierce was asked if he realized what he was getting himself into.
"That's OK, that's all right. It's a good way to bond with my guys too."
And so while it would seem a trade has taken Pierce out of Manitoba, there's apparently no taking the Friendly Manitoba out of Pierce. And for good reason -- while he will reside in Vancouver for the balance of this football season, Pierce's full-time home is still in Winnipeg with his fiancee, Laurie, who he met during his years here.
Pierce's status as a local creates the possibility that both of the men in the B.C. backfield on at least some plays tonight will be Winnipeggers -- Pierce and running back, and native Winnipegger, Andrew Harris.
"I don't know who's more loyal," laughed Harris, "but this is definitely my hometown and Buck has definitely dug some roots here with the restaurant and all he does in the community. So it's a homecoming for both of us, I guess."
Pierce, who rode the bench the final few weeks he was a Bomber, said he's still adjusting to the idea of being a Lion but revelling at the chance to play again. "Everything is still happening very fast," said Pierce. "And right now it's very exciting for me because I'm working so hard to learn and mesh with the new teammates and the new concepts and just fit in.
"I feel like a young guy who has to earn his stripes."
And finally, yes, if you were wondering, Pierce did share what he knew about the Bombers offence with the B.C. coaching staff this week.
"Yeah, I gave them all the answers," Pierce laughed.
The answers to the Bombers offence? That would have been a short conversation.