Blue Bomber Report Record: 6–3–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Will Collaros be Blue's man?

Argos backup coveted by Bomber brain trust

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MISSISSSAUGA, Ont. -- He was polite, friendly and very professional.

But Toronto backup quarterback Zach Collaros was also as noncommital as he could possibly be at the Argos practice facility Wednesday when the subject came up -- as it inevitably was going to -- of what he might look like at the controls of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers offence next season.

"I'm trying not to think about (the future) too much. I'm really just trying to stay locked into what we're doing here," said Collaros, a second-year CFLer out of Cincinnati. "However things play out after the season, we'll just have to see how that goes...

"Obviously you think where you might be in the future. But I'm an Argo first and foremost and I'm going to be ready if need be."

If that's about as clear as mud, well, what did you expect from a guy who is still gainfully employed as the backup QB for a team that could clinch first place in the East Division with a win over the Bombers at Rogers Centre tonight?

Collaros is considered the most coveted of all the quarterbacks likely to be available in a unique off-season in which a combination of free agents and an expansion draft to accommodate the new Ottawa Redblacks franchise is expected to create an unusual amount of movement at the quarterback position in the CFL.

Collaros is a free agent come February and confirmed he has thus far had no talks with the Argos about a contract extension. What's more, the Argos have already made clear starter Ricky Ray is the man they will protect in the expansion draft, leaving Collaros exposed to Ottawa in the December draft.

And then there's the Bombers, who have made clear they will sign a new starting quarterback this off-season, come hell or high water, and who have privately singled out Collaros as one of their principal QB targets this winter.

Collaros's potential free agent status complicates things for the front offices in both Winnipeg and Ottawa. But the good news is the Bombers have something that Collaros desperately wants -- a starting job. And there are no teams in the CFL aside from Winnipeg and Ottawa who appear likely at the moment to be able to offer Collaros that kind of opportunity in 2014.

Collaros started six games this season for the Argos in relief of an injured Ray, winning four of them -- all on the road -- and proving, Collaros thinks, that he's ready to make the next step in the CFL, from backup to starter.

"I don't think anyone comes up here -- or anywhere -- wanting to be a backup or third string. Everybody wants to play -- that's why we play the game. And if you don't want to play, you shouldn't be playing this game. I'm a competitive guy and I want to be on the field," said Collaros, 25.

"I would hope that people think that (he's ready to be a starter), especially the coaches and GMs in the league. Like I said, we won some games, not directly because of me. Offensively, defensively and special teams we all came together as one. But that's going to help me out for the future."

The men around Collaros in southern Ontario seem to have no doubt he's ready to make the next step in his CFL career.

"He's shown he can win in this league," said Ray. "And his game is good for that. He's able to make some plays that a lot of guys can't make in this league as far as extending plays out of the pocket and keeping plays alive. That's what's impressive about his game...

"He's a pretty easygoing guy in the locker-room. He gets along with everyone and doesn't act bigger than he is. He is just who he is. And during practice he works hard and does his best to get better every week.

"And that's what you want to see from everybody, but especially a young guy who's had some success."

Argos head coach Scott Milanovich echoed Ray's assessment of Collaros.

"Zach's a winner," said Milanovich. "Good arm strength, escapability...Yeah, I think Zach's got a good future in this league."

The larger question now -- and it is resonating perhaps loudest in Winnipeg -- is where?

paul.wiecek@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @PaulWiecek

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 24, 2013 D4

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