WINNIPEG — Buck Pierce will be the starting quarterback going into training camp for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers this season, but oft-injured pivot will have some new backup.
The Blue Bombers completed their quarterback makeover Monday, signing Max Hall and Chase Clement shortly after releasing Alex Brink.
“All of us feel like Buck gives us the best chance to win,” Bombers coach Tim Burke said of Pierce.
But now Winnipeg has some protection if Pierce goes down. Burke said he views both Hall and Clement as potential starters, and the only backup retained from last season, Justin Goltz, could be the future of the franchise.
Burke said the Blue Bombers have been after Hall and Clement for some time, and the chance of becoming a starter was a lure to persuade both to make the trip.
“They know Buck’s likelihood of injuries so they know there’s a chance to step into that role,” said Burke.
Despite his confidence they have what it takes, Burke conceded they might not be ready on day one.
“Obviously, they don’t have a lot of CFL experience and there is a learning curve,” he said.
Hall has seen NFL action and Clement has played in the United Football League and had a cup of coffee in the CFL before — he was signed by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats June 2, 2009, but bolted June 6 after exactly one practice.
Hall joined the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals as an undrafted free agent in 2010 and played in six games that season, including three starts.
He completed 39 of his 78 pass attempts for 370 yards and a touchdown. In his first start, he helped the Cardinals defeat the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints, completing 17 of 27 passes for 168 yards in a 30-20 victory.
He spent the 2011 season on the injured reserve list after clearing waivers before joining Brigham Young University as a student assistant coach.
Before joining the Cardinals, Hall played for three years at Brigham Young and holds the all-time record for wins as a quarterback with 32. He had 11,365 passing yards and 94 touchdowns in his varsity career.
Clement spent four years at Rice. He shares the NCAA Division I FBS record for career touchdowns between a quarterback and receiver tandem (51).
He is the only quarterback in NCAA history to record at least 300 passing yards and 100 rushing yards in two consecutive games.
Clement played for the Las Vegas Locomotives of the United Football League and was MVP of the 2010 UFL Championship game.
He said he still had his eyes on the NFL in 2009 when he was signed by Hamilton.
“I think where I am now and my approach to the game, you have to learn how to be a pro, there’s just a lot of different things I’ve learned over the last couple of years, I think I’m in a much different place,” he said.
Brink was the second of last year’s backups to get cut after Winnipeg parted ways with Joey Elliott late last month.
Both Elliott and Brink got shots at starter last season behind Pierce and neither impressed Bomber brass as the team finished out of the playoffs.
Brink signed with Winnipeg in 2010 and played in 26 games over the past three seasons, starting seven. He completed 226 of 398 passes for 2,573 yards with 13 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.
When Pierce is healthy he can win. He played in 16 games in 2011 and took the team to the Grey Cup in B.C., which they lost.
But in 2012 Pierce missed 11 games with a foot injury, concussion and finally a shoulder problem.