Zach Collaros was brought in as a late-season insurance policy for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, but his approach to the job is as serious as if he were the club's No. 1 quarterback.
The 31-year-old eight-year pro, obtained Oct. 9, got his first live reps with his new team Tuesday afternoon.
"I feel really good," said Collaros, who has not played since suffering a concussion in Week 1 while he was a member of the Saskatchewan Roughriders. "I've felt good for a long time now but I haven't taken any full-speed reps for quite some time.
"Today was nice to throw the ball around a little bit, feel the rush. It's a real pain being out there with (defensive end) Willie (Jefferson) again and trying to throw around him."
Collaros was traded by the Toronto Argonauts to the Blue Bombers with a fifth-round draft pick in exchange for a third-round pick. That third-rounder will become a first-rounder in 2020 if the Blue Bombers re-sign the Steubenville, Ohio product when he becomes an unrestricted free agent after this season.
The acquisition of Collaros, brought in at the trade deadline after it was revealed that No. 1 quarterback Matt Nichols would be lost for the season following shoulder surgery, is meant to provide veteran support for sophomore starter Chris Streveler.
Streveler's backup, rookie Sean McGuire, has never thrown a pass in a regular-season CFL game.
Later this week, the Blue Bombers travel to Calgary for Saturday's crucial Week 19 battle against the Stampeders. Winnipeg, third in the West Division at 10-6, needs to win that game and also beat 10-5 Calgary in the return Week 20 engagement at IG Field to secure a home playoff date.
Winnipeg head coach Mike O'Shea said Collaros's personality and experience make him a good choice for the assignment.
"The type of guy he is allows him to fit in, " said O'Shea. "He's an easy-going guy, fun-loving guy. He's that type of character so he's easily going to fit. What allows him to pick things up quickly is he's smart and he's been in a bunch of different systems.
"I've said this before; if you've been in multiple systems one of the things you really learn is how to learn. He can translate it into concepts that he's already... learned from other systems and it's just a matter of getting the terminology down. Conceptually, I'm sure he's seen most of this stuff."
Collaros, acquired by Toronto from Saskatchewan on July 31, did not play a down on his second go-round with the Argos. O'Shea did not sound like he would be rushing Collaros into the lineup.
"It's been a bit since he's played football so he knows he's gotta get in a bit better shape and he'll work his arm hard and keep studying and be good to go," said O'Shea.
O'Shea was asked if he had a clear idea of what Collaros's timetable would be.
"I don't have that scenario in my head just yet. I've said before, this is Chris Streveler's team," he said.
Collaros said he had already gained a comfort level with offensive co-ordinator Paul LaPolice's playbook.
"Yeah, I feel good and LaPo and (quarterbacks coach) Buck (Pierce) have done a really good job with their system and the word association and those kind of things that make it easier to learn," he said. "For the last three, four days I really hunkered down and feel pretty good about it."
Being uprooted this late in the season wasn't a big deal.
"I had an indication there were some (trade) talks but I didn't know how serious it was," said Collaros. "My reaction when I heard about it — besides my wife being upset that I had to leave home for a couple of weeks — I was really excited. Talking to everyone here and watching this organization from afar for the last four, five years, you can tell they do things the right way. And that's been confirmed for me since I've been here.
"It's a great situation from me to come in and help in any way I can."
Collaros was unwilling to speculate about the possibility of re-signing with the Blue Bombers or returning to Toronto, where newly installed Argos GM Mike (Pinball) Clemons has spoken openly about luring him back into the fold.
"I haven't thought that deeply about it," said Collaros. "I'm still relatively young in my career. I'd like to go to the best opportunity possible and for right now, obviously, I have a great opportunity to play some football, be around a group of guys that win, a group of guys that do it the right way and (O'Shea) and Kyle Walters... I'm just embracing the moment. All that stuff will take care of itself."
Mike has been working on the Free Press sports desk since 2003.