Blue Bombers unsure if QB Hall will play final game
Bombers don't know if QB Hall will be able to play final game on Nov. 2
It's already one of the worst seasons on record for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and you might think they'd want to turn their backs on it and start looking to next season.
But after Thursday's 36-21 loss to the Toronto Argonauts, both coach Tim Burke and his players said that won't happen.
"That would be cheating the players," Burke said Friday as the team arrived home at Richardson International Airport.
"I don't want to look ahead to next year because we have one more game to play and we're going to play it to win and I want our guys to leave here from this year with a good taste in their mouth."
"There'll be a time and a place for that," said veteran offensive lineman Glenn January.
"Up until then I think we owe it to ourselves and to our fans to give our best effort and focus on the 18th game of the season."
One might also say there's no point looking ahead until you know you're going to be around next season.
At 3-14, the Bombers are one loss away from tieing their worst record ever in the 18-game CFL. It was set in 1998 largely under coach Jeff Reinebold, who was sacked with four games left after finishing 4-14 in 1997.
Thursday night's game was a lot closer than the final score would suggest, with the Bombers within four points at the half and only a touchdown back at the start of the fourth quarter.
January also wasn't taking much comfort in that, however, even against a quarterback like Ricky Ray, who may be the best in the CFL this season.
"We played Toronto close two weeks in a row and in my opinion they should repeat as Grey Cup champions," he said.
"But it doesn't really get you far when you're still getting the losses. A loss is a loss, whether you lose close or not so close."
It was a penalty-filled, bruising game for both teams and the fourth quarter saw Bomber quarterback Max Hall helped off the field with what Burke said has been diagnosed as a hip pointer.
His status for the last game of the season Nov. 2 against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats remains in doubt, although Burke was cautiously optimistic.
"I really don't know, it's too early to say," he said as the Bombers arrived at Richardson International Airport in Winnipeg Thursday.
"Fortunately we have a long week so hopefully he'll be ready next week."
The Bombers have had a lot of problems this season but quarterback stands tall as the most troublesome.
They started the season with Buck Pierce back as starter, despite concerns over his durability, and Justin Goltz as understudy. Hall was then one of two CFL rookies brought in for a look.
The quarterback carousel started turning way back in July when Pierce went down with what was described as a stomach injury in the fourth game of the season.
He had led the Bombers to one win at that point, but even though he said he felt well enough to play the team started Goltz in the next game against Calgary.
In mid-August, the struggling team sacked both general manager and team president Garth Buchko and replaced Goltz with Hall, who played with the Arizona Cardinals in 2010.
Hall was injured briefly as well and Goltz stepped back in for a time but the Bombers stayed winless.
Pierce saw only limited action as a backup until he was finally traded to the B.C. Lions late on Sept. 8. It was the same day Goltz recorded Winnipeg's second win of the season.
But the Bombers decided to put their money on Hall and have stuck with that bet. They also signed former Hamilton third-stringer Justin Boltus in late August and he has dressed as Hall's backup lately.
Hall has the best numbers at pivot for the Bombers this season but he's also played the most, completing 144 of 248 passes for 1,839 yards and nine touchdowns. His rating is 78.3.
Goltz completed 81 of 146 passes for 895 yards and two touchdowns with a rating of 58.2. But as the go-to guy in short-yardage situations he's rushed for another eight.
The Bombers have made it clear finding a new starting quarterback is their top priority.