If Buck Pierce's projections about returning from his foot injury are anywhere near accurate, tonight's game may be one of the final opportunities another quarterback in this franchise has to step up and lead the team down a different path.
Back on July 17, Buck told Adam Wazny of the Winnipeg Free Press he expected to be back in four weeks or less. This is the fourth week. While it's never wise to hedge your bets on a timeline an athlete gives you for his recovery -- we tend to be exceedingly optimistic when it comes to our rehabilitation prospects -- it is still fair to say the clock is ticking louder on audition opportunities for the starting quarterback spot of the Blue and Gold.
The thing about injuries in football is they are far more than just a physical nuisance and common annoyance. While you are on the shelf mending, an opportunity is presented to another player who otherwise may have never seen the field. Sometimes, this inadvertent exposure, that happens through no fault of your own, can lead to a changing of the guard. Bad things happen to good people all of the time in professional football, and Pierce is the poster boy of this sentiment.
I don't have to look any further than my own experience last year to be able to relate to the scenario that may unfold at the helm of the Bombers offence. After breaking the big toe on my left foot on July 28 against the B.C. Lions, I was a spectator for the next two games and watched coach Casey Creehan rotate a stable of young defensive linemen in and out of the contests to great effect.
Up until that injury, I had been on pace for career bests in both tackles and sacks for 2011. In two games I went from being an every-down player, which I had been for 10-plus years in Winnipeg, to playing exclusively on first down.
One man's injury and inconvenience is another man's opportunity to showcase his talents. Had I not had this injury to my foot, a rotational scheme probably wouldn't have been implemented and my final season may have ended on a more prolific note, at least from an individual standpoint.
The situation Joey Elliotts finds himself in tonight is almost advantageous to his prospects of becoming a full-time starter. The team is so desperate for a win right now, at 1-5, if he pulls a victory out of his hat in almost any fashion, without grievous errors, the coaches would be hard pressed to mess or tinker with the small amount of momentum this ball club would gain.
In fact, I would dare suggest, the circumstances tonight are so ripe for the picking that if the Bombers can upset the Tiger-Cats -- which I picked them to do -- Joey Elliott will remain the starter next week against B.C., even if he doesn't shoot the lights out and simply manages the game, and even if Buck is champing at the bit and raring to regain his starting role.
For after a win, when talks this week have already approached firing hypotheticals, do you really think a franchise would deliberately swap out the ingredients of victory, even if their admittedly best quarterback regains his health? Since winning right now is the end all, be all of proving grounds for this football team, the marks for participation go way up. If you are involved in a major way in a win, like a pivot who touches the ball every snap and leads the team, or even in a minor way, like being added to the roster to play on a couple of special-teams units, you are a contributor to the success of a critical win for the franchise, and that is nothing to be trifled with.
In my mind, the most interesting dynamic of this game is what happens if the Bombers win and continue to get healthier? All signs point in the direction of suggesting the incumbent QB take an extra week or two of "recovery time," if Elliott can pull a victory out of the jaws of the Tiger-Cats tonight.
Doug Brown, once a hard-hitting defensive lineman and frequently a hard-hitting columnist, appears Tuesdays and game days in the Free Press.