December 6, 2013 Sections
Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
THE director of CFL officiating says the league is doing everything possible this season to protect quarterbacks -- and that includes Winnipeg's Buck Pierce.
But Tom Higgins also says a lot of the responsibility for keeping Pierce healthy in a young season in which he has already been the victim of three roughing-the-passer penalties has to rest with Pierce himself.
"It still comes down to what we talked about earlier -- success in any football game is protecting your quarterback and getting after the other team's quarterback," Higgins said in a telephone interview Monday.
"I hope Buck gets himself on a run and he's getting to make better decisions -- you know, throw the football away instead of taking a hit. But those are things I know Tim Burke and his coaching staff are working on.
"Because success on every CFL team is somewhat contingent upon keeping their No. 1 quarterback healthy."
The Bombers coaching staff don't dispute they must do a much better job of protecting Pierce in Guelph this Saturday against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats than they did in the first two weeks of the 2013 regular season versus Montreal.
After harping all training camp about a new offensive scheme they maintained was going to emphasize keeping Pierce on his feet, the Bombers surrendered eight sacks in just the first two games.
But while sacks between the whistles are something that can presumably be fixed, the Bombers are also worried about the hits Pierce took from Montreal defenders after the whistles.
The three roughing-the-passer calls against Montreal in Weeks 1 and 2 were just the tip of an iceberg of late and questionable hits that Pierce took from the Alouettes and it's renewed concerns that teams this season are going to single out Pierce for particular punishment because he has shown himself to be so vulnerable to injury in the past.
The Bombers staff did submit video to the league from Week 1 of some of the abuse Pierce took from Montreal. While the league didn't announce any fines, Higgins cautioned that doesn't mean the Bombers' concerns were ignored or not acted upon.
"I can't talk in specifics, but what people don't know is that we're charting who hits who and when -- and we issue discipline in different forms. The only time something comes out of the league office is when there are monetary fines," Higgins said.
"But there are other times when we might send something out and have an athlete write something up for us -- 'Why did you do what you did?' And we had quite a few of those just this weekend where we sent communications out to teams.
"And again, I can't comment on specifics. But I do want you to know that we feel what drives our league -- any professional football league -- is the quarterbacks. And we're doing everything in our power to make sure those quarterbacks are protected and they're all protected in the same way."
YARDSTICKS -- The Bombers confirmed Monday that SB Terrence Edwards (shoulder) and DT Bryant Turner (chest) won't play on Saturday...The Bombers signed import receiver/returner Aaron Woods (5-6, 180, Portland State) on Monday. Woods spent the last couple of seasons in the UFL...The Bombers also re-added local receiver Taylor Renaud to the practice roster.
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 9, 2013 C1