- Free Agency
THE CANADIAN PRESS
WINNIPEG — It’s hard for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers not to look to next season as they prepare for the Montreal Alouettes on Saturday and say goodbye to a stadium that’s been home for more than 50 years.
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“Yeah, of course you have to think about next year, when you’re facing the record that we’re facing right now,” veteran offensive lineman Glenn January said Friday.
But he says that doesn’t mean they’re not focused on beating the East-leading Alouettes.
“We still have an opportunity to go out there and secure third place in the East, which may seem like a small thing but it’s still something we can hang our hats on.”
A win would bump the Bombers above the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, thanks to the 2-1 edge the Bombers have against the Ticats over the season.
Neither Winnipeg nor Hamilton will make the playoffs. The fourth-place team in the West Division will cross over to take the final spot in the East.
Bombers backup quarterback Alex Brink will get the start. He had one win in three starts when he replaced an injured Buck Pierce earlier this year.
Brink was later replaced by backup Joey Elliott and admits he doesn’t think he was given a fair chance. He’s anxious to get another chance to show what he can do.
“The biggest thing for me was how frustrated I was by that whole situation, that I never felt like I got a fair shake to develop and show what I could do,” he said.
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The future of all four of Winnipeg’s quarterbacks seems to be on the line now that the decision has been made to keep both general manager Joe Mack and coach Tim Burke. Burke took over in mid-season when Paul LaPolice was sacked.
Burke and Mack say they know Winnipeg’s quarterbacking situation has to be resolved. Pierce started only seven games as he battled a foot injury and concussion symptoms for much of the season.
Both Brink and Justin Goltz are expected to get playing time Saturday. Montreal, with first place in the East already locked up, has decided to sit usual starter Anthony Calvillo.
Backup Adrian McPherson will start at quarterback and he’s just as anxious as Brink to show what he can do.
Like Brink for the Bombers, McPherson normally handles short-yardage situations for the Alouettes but not much else if Calvillo is healthy.
“It’s always tough (sitting) because you want to play the game, but I’ve learned so much,” he said of watching the veteran Calvillo in action. “I tell people all the time I’ve learned more in the last five years than I’ve learned since I’ve been playing football.”
“I felt good in practice, I try to get extra work on the side with those guys and I try to pay attention to what Anthony does,” he continued. “I’m just trying to make the most of my opportunities so I don’t have time to shake off rust or anything like that. I just want to go out and have fun and win the ball game.”
This season he’s scored eight touchdowns in short yardage situations, and while he’d love to be out there leading the offence and throwing the football, he admitted he takes certain pride in being able to perform in the role he has.
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Joey Elliott had a career game, throwing for 335 yards and three touchdowns on 17-25 passing to lead the Bombers to a thrilling 27-22 win over the Alouettes at Percival-Molson Stadium. Elliott earned offensive Player of the Week honours for his efforts, as the Bombers held off a late surge thanks to a last-drive interception by Brandon Stewart. Chris Matthews had a stellar day at the office with 143 yards and a touchdown on six catches, while Brandon London had 170 yards and a touchdown in a losing effort for Montreal.
“A lot of pride, coming into the season I said I just want to do whatever the coaches ask me to do and I’ll do it to the best of my ability, and that’s what they’ve asked me to do, go out on second and short and third and short and get first downs, and that’s what I’ve tried to do.”
McPherson is certainly the kind of running back that can take off and run with the ball, as he’s shown during limited playing time throughout his career — but for this game, he said there won’t be much of a change in the Montreal offence just because he’s leading it.
“I want to get the ball to the playmakers,” he said. “I’m surrounded by a great group of guys.”
One thing you can expect is for him to be leaning on Chris Jennings at running back, who’s expected to get another start in the Alouettes backfield.
“He’s a big guy, so I don’t have to take the hits, that’s a good thing, we can hand him the ball,” said McPherson. “I’m sure they’ll be looking for me to run the ball a bit, but my plan is to give him the ball and let him work.”
You might think heading into this game, the 29-year-old gunslinger who’s waited so long behind Calvillo would have something to prove to coaches, management, and fans across the league. After all, his contract expires after this season, which would give him the opportunity to join another team should the situation present itself.
But currently he’s concerned with simply earning a spot on the current roster next season.
“To be honest I need to go out and play well on Saturday to even have a job next year, so I’m just trying to go out and play hard and show this organization that I love to be here, I’d love for them to have me back and when I get there I’ll address that situation then,” he said.
While both teams are in different situations heading into their final game, the Bombers should expect to have a little bit of an emotional boost, set to play their final game at Canad Inns Stadium.
They’ll move into their new home, Investors Group Field at the University of Manitoba, next spring after it failed to open on time this year. That forced them back to Canad Inns Stadium for one more season.
Kickoff is at 3:00 P.M. ET, and can be seen on TSN or followed live via Game Tracker on CFL.ca and CFL Mobile.
– With files from MontrealAlouettes.com