Tim Burke stood in front of a row of television cameras Monday afternoon and spit out this all too common refrain when asked about Winnipeg Blue Bombers' quarterback Buck Pierce:
"If the medical staff releases him to play," Burke said, "then he will be the starter. Despite our record we are still in the race. We know we have to win out, so it's who gives us the best chance to win."
Asked if it was the baseline concussion test that Pierce has yet to pass, Burke added:
"I really don't know. I think they've stopped telling me so I don't tell you."
Burke grinned. The media throng chuckled.
And so it goes in Bomberland, where Burke essentially delivered the same answer last week prior to the Calgary matchup, the week before that with Montreal on the horizon, before the Labour Day game and the Banjo Bowl and so on and so on.
Ditto for Paul LaPolice in the two-and-a-half years previous, with the only variation the names listed behind Pierce on the depth chart, be they Steven Jyles, Alex Brink, Joey Elliott or Justin Goltz.
Now, seeing as this ongoing storyline has many Bomber fans hoarse from screaming in frustration, we thought we'd serve up a potential peek at the future. "Potential" being the key word here.
The Free Press obtained a copy of the Bombers' confidential negotiation list from a week ago, Oct. 8, and that collection of potential future CFLers includes four quarterbacks. (A fifth, R.J. Archer, was added to the team's practice roster last week).
So go ahead, fantasize all you faithful, about what these dudes might look like in Bomber colours:
-- Denard Robinson -- Starring at the University of Michigan, but unlikely to get a long look by NFL types as a QB. But Robinson is such a phenomenal athlete, he could get drafted as a receiver, running back or return man.
-- Chase Clement -- Now the starter for the Las Vegas Locomotives of the fledgling UFL. Former Rice star was the MVP of the 2010 UFL championship game.
-- B.J. Coleman -- Seventh-round draft pick of the Green Bay Packers, now on their practice squad. High school star who first started at Tennessee before transferring to Tennessee-Chattanooga.
-- Armanti Edwards -- Big-time star at Appalachian state was a third-round pick of the Carolina Panthers in 2010 and has been converted to receiver/returner in the NFL.
We now terminate this interlude to bring everyone back to the here and now, where the pressures on the current regime to win mean that Pierce will start Friday in Toronto if he gets the green light.
And so any notions of letting Elliott run with it the in the final three games -- or turning back to Brink or auditioning Goltz -- won't be officially contemplated until the Bombers playoff hopes are officially snuffed out or it's determined Pierce can't go.
"We're talking back and forth about it... which guy gives you the best chance to win," said Burke.
The CFL's Offensive Player of the Week after guiding the Bombers to a Thanksgiving day win in Montreal, Elliott completed 22 of 33 passes in the loss to Calgary and was intercepted four times -- three of them in the end zone.
"He made mistakes," Burke said of Elliott. "The one that he threw to Terrence (Edwards) that was intercepted, that was just a poorly located ball. The last one... he lofted that ball instead of rifling it in there. Clarence (Denmark) was open, he got a little bit of pressure and he should have rifled it in there or just run it and let us have another third-down attempt."
Call it growing pains, inexperience, the byproduct of working with a CFL rookie offensive co-ordinator or all of the above.
But the bottom line is this: the lack of stability at the position has hurt the Bombers this season. And the answer going forward -- whether it's the current collection, a free agent or the names on the neg list -- is hardly clear-cut.
"Obviously you come into the season with Buck as your starter and he goes down and then now it's been tough on Alex and Joey, who don't have a lot of experience in the CFL," Burke said. "They're learning as they're going along and it's a tough league to learn in. You don't see a lot of young quarterbacks do well in our league.
"I think they're getting better as we go along. And you can see Joey's improvement, obviously, the last few weeks, but Alex is also getting better."
That evidence comes in spurts now, however, and with no guarantees the short-term pain will lead to long-term gain at the most critical position on the field.
Ed.firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @WFPEdTait
A look at the other names, aside from QBs, on the Bomber neg list, obtained by The Free Press on Monday:
Undrafted in 2011, signed by the Bears, then to the Colts, now with the Redskins. Has played end and now linebacker.
Seventh-round pick of the Redskins in 2010, he was one of the club's last cuts this season and is now a free agent. Played in 18 games over two years with Washington and pulled in 15 passes.
On the Kansas City Chiefs practice roster after standing out as undrafted player at their rookie mini-camp. Ran a 4.47 and played some corner as well at Louisville.
Claude DavisDE South Florida
Wasn't drafted and was injured around the time NFL teams expressed an interest. Signed earlier this month with the Bay Area Pirates of something called the United Football Federation.
Desia DunnDB Fresno State
Had a stint with Arizona Cardinals and then in the Arena League.
Pat EdwardsWR Houston
Currently on the Detroit Lions' practice squad; was the Conference USA Offensive Player of the Year in 2011.
On the Cincinnati Bengals practice squad and former starter with the Wildcats.
Cut by the Tennessee Titans in August. Just FYI: very cool nickname -- 'Smoke.'
Jeff FullerWRTexas A&M
Now with the Miami Dolphins on their PR; Big target (6-4) set school record for career TD receptions.
Tyrell Gaddies DL Louisiana at Lafayette
Former Rajin' Cajuns star is a defensive tackle listed at 6-2, 275.
Undrafted out of Georgia, Gamble first signed with San Diego and is now on Washington's practice roster.
Small by NFL standards at 5-11, 165, Gatson is on the San Diego practice roster.
Logan HarrellDL Fresno State
Defensive end was a 2010 All-WAC All-star. Another member of the Chargers PR squad.
Cut by New England in August. Spent two years with the Tampa Bay. Rushed for 2,188 yards and 21 touchdowns at Hofstra.
LeQuan LewisDB Arizona State
Cornerback; was just released by Dallas after being snatched off the New York Jets' practice squad.
Eric NorwoodDE South Carolina
Former first-team All-American in 2009 after setting school records in sacks and tackles for losses. Was cut by Carolina in August.
Ty NsekheOTTexas State
Human eclipse of a man at 6-8, 325 who is on the St. Louis Rams practice squad.
Added to the Dolphins PR last week after being dumped by Atlanta.
Junior OnyealiDE Arizona State
A junior with the Sun Devils who starts at defensive end.
Dj PorterDBStony Brook
Led Big South conference in interceptions last year.
Armond SmithRB Union College
Undrafted free agent first signed by Cleveland, now on the Carolina practice roster.
Corey SmithLB Cincinnati
Starred with the Bearcats.
Deonte Thompson WR Florida
Former Florida Gator is on the Baltimore Ravens active roster.
Ross WeaverCB Michigan State
Has had stints wit Miami, Seattle, Dallas and the Jacksonville Sharks (indoor) and was released from Detroit's practice squad in September.
On the active roster of the New Orleans Saints; drafted in the third round of 2011.
Note: the Oct. 8 Bomber neg list included Jawann Westerman, Vincent Agnew, R.J. Archer, James Carmon and Wallace Miles, all currently on the Bomber practice roster, as well as Lee Barbiasz, who reported to Winnipeg but left a day later.