Bombers still awaiting Buck Pierce's status for Stampeders game
The Winnipeg Blue Bombers were still waiting Wednesday to see if starting quarterback Buck Pierce would be cleared to play this weekend against the visiting Calgary Stampeders.
"We should know something this evening and if you see him out there taking snaps tomorrow [Thursday] then you now he's cleared to play," said head coach Tim Burke.
"If he isn't, then you know he's not cleared to play."
Burke said they had to make the decision now in order to prepare properly for Saturday's game against Calgary. Pierce has been out with a concussion since the team's last home game Sept. 29.
Backup quarterback Joey Elliott earned CFL player-of-the-week honours for leading the Bombers to a 27-22 upset win over Montreal on Monday.
But he says he knows when Pierce is healthy, he'll be taking over, and that could be this weekend.
"True, I mean it could happen, coming off a good game you always want to build on that," said the backup, after a practice Wednesday in which Pierce was very active, although he wasn't allowed to speak to reporters.
"At the same time, [for] our organization and the franchise, Buck's our quarterback, and they're going to stay behind that 110 per cent. When he's healthy he's going to be ready to go."
Elliott now has two wins this season as a starter for the 4-10 Bombers. Pierce has one and so does backup Alex Brink.
Helmet to the chin
Pierce was sidelined in July with a foot injury and was only in the second game since his return when he got decked by a helmet to the chin from Toronto Argonaut Brandon Isaac.
There has been a lot of talk about the number of concussions he has had and whether he should return at all. Pierce refuses to reveal a number and the Bombers say any decision to call it quits would be up to him.
But they also say he won't return until he gets a clean bill of health from doctors.
As they prepare for Saturday, the Bombers know they have to find a way to reverse the kind of domination the Calgary Stampeders showed during their first meeting last month, when they trounced Winnipeg 44-3.
"In that game, we just went two and out, two and out, two and out, and so the defence kind of got down mentally and emotionally," said Burke.
"I don't think that will happen this time."
All three of Winnipeg's backups tried their hand and none had any success as the offence sputtered.
"I think we have a much better idea of how we have to play them," said Burke.
Although still uneven, the offence has strong elements on which to build, such as rookie running back Chad Simpson (currently fourth on the CFL list with 783 rushing yards) and rookie receiver Chris Matthews (sixth with 974 receiving yards).
Elliott now has a lot more experience, if he starts the game Saturday, and an inexperienced offensive line has also shown improvement.
Until Mondays' win though, it didn't seem as though the Bombers had much hope for a turnaround until next season, when they can hope to bury the past as they start playing in their glitzy new stadium. Construction delays killed plans to play there this season.
Injecting new life
But by beating the top team in the East Division Monday, they injected a little new life into their dream for 2012, coming off a Grey Cup final appearance in 2011.
It's true they have to win most, if not all, of their remaining four games. But CFL history shows an 8-10 team or even a 7-10 team could very well find post-season life.
Last week, defensive back Jovon Johnson was adamant that the Bombers were still in the hunt, and Wednesday he said the win in Montreal helps prove the point.
"That just goes to show that we're capable of beating any team on any given day," said the league's top defensive player in 2011.
"We're as good as we want to be . . We've got to out there and prove that we're not the team that showed up in Calgary."