Blue Bomber Report Record: 3–15–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Controversy looming at quarterback

Elliott's play casts doubt on fate of oft-injured Bombers starter Pierce

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Off in the distance, a quarterback controversy is looming for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

There's Joey Elliott, freshly minted as the CFL's offensive player of the week, earning a second consecutive start after igniting the offence to a win last time out. If he turns in a similar performance against the powerhouse B.C. Lions on Friday, it will be hard for the Bombers to not let Elliott start the Labour Day Classic, right?

Then there's Buck Pierce. The No. 1 quarterback has been close to returning from a left foot injury suffered in the game against Edmonton July 13. No stranger to how quickly his own body recovers from injury, Pierce figured he'd be out a month, circling last Thursday's game against Hamilton or the coming date against B.C. for his possible return.

The Ticats came and went, and as for the Lions, not going to happen. The 30-year-old was ruled out by the club Monday and won't even dress for the game against the defending Grey Cup champs, creating the perfect conditions for a prairie quarterback storm.

Maybe.

"I thought I was practising this week," Pierce told a group of reporters after practice at Canad Inns Stadium Tuesday. "Like I said... I feel pretty good; they (the medical staff) are telling me just take your time, be smart with it, and that's what I have to do. A time will come where they'll be ready for me to rock 'n' roll. I have to be ready for that."

Pierce, who was still walking with a slight limp after practice Tuesday, says the doctors are telling him his left foot is right on schedule in the healing process, and that there hasn't been any setback in getting it back to 100 per cent. After looking spry and ready to play less than two weeks ago, running around with the other three quarterbacks, Pierce went through a treatment regime that pushed him right off the field (he wasn't around for a handful of practices leading up the Hamilton game).

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Pierce wasn't surprised he was ruled out for the Ticats, saying he has to "trust those decisions" made by both the training staff and the coaches. So is he ready to play right now?

Despite Pierce's own thoughts that he would be ready in a month days after the injury occurred, the club has stuck to its open-ended time frame. Four weeks? Perhaps. Six weeks? We'll see.

 "With the big win last week, they want to give me some more time," Pierce said.

More questions are cast on Pierce's return with the early, favourable returns on Elliott these days. The last-place Bombers (2-5) have basically held a mini-tryout at quarterback during the latest Pierce hiatus, taking a look at Alex Brink for three games before switching to Elliott against Hamilton and now B.C.

-- With the oft-injured starter ready to return next week for the game in Regina, what happens if Elliott turns in another solid outing and delivers a win against the Lions?

-- Are the Bombers growing tired of Pierce's injury history?

-- Do they keep looking at Elliott, with one eye on him as the club's starting quarterback moving forward?

"We'll cross all those bridges when we get to them," head coach Paul LaPolice told reporters earlier this week.

Pierce, meanwhile, wasn't ready to enter the trap and pull down the bait, either. From his standpoint, he's still the No. 1 quarterback on the depth chart, regardless of what is happening at the position during his absence.

"That's all hypothetical, I mean, we're 2-5 -- still a tough world to live in," said Pierce, when asked about the possible turbulence down the road. "We can't live in the world of hypothetical and 'what ifs.' You know, me... hey man, I'm brought in here to do a job, and it's opportunities when I go down for other guys. Joey's getting his opportunities and he did a great job with it last week. I wish him the best. I help him as much as I can.

"Right now, it's (about) myself getting healthy and getting ready to go back out."

adam.wazny@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @wazoowazny

TWO FINE CHOICES

 QUARTERBACK Joey Elliott and defensive end Alex Hall were selected as Gibson's Finest CFL players of the week, the league announced Tuesday.

video player to use on WFP

Elliott was named the offensive star, for his 33-of-43 for 406 yards and one touchdown outing in Winnipeg's 32-25 win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats at Canad Inns Stadium last Thursday. The third-year pivot, making just his third career start, became the first Bombers quarterback to throw for 400-plus yards since Michael Bishop hit the mark during the 2009 season.

"They could have picked multiple players on the offensive side of the ball," Elliott said. "It's a big deal, it's an accomplishment. I called my Dad and told him that, and he said, 'You're kidding me?' It's an accomplishment (for) our team.

"You have to win games to get accolades."

Hall, a first-year CFL player, recorded one sack and forced Ticats quarterback Henry Burris to fumble the football twice in the contest -- one of them coming at the Bombers one-yard line in the first quarter. Hall has four sacks on the year, tying him for third spot in the league.

Hall dismissed the suggestion the award announced his arrival to the CFL.

"If you want to say that, it is what it is," he said. "The people who watch tape, they know."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 22, 2012 D1

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