March 27, 2013

Burke: “Buck Pierce is a competitor” Staff

WINNIPEG — By releasing QB Joey Elliott on Tuesday, Blue Bombers head coach Tim Burke got one important decision out of the way.

Next up, he has to decide what he’s going to do with Buck Pierce, Alex Brink and Justin Goltz, the other three pivots on the Bombers roster who still have no idea where they slot it on the team’s depth chart.

And with just over three months to go until training camps get underway, Burke says he still hasn’t made a decision.

“This is a continuing discussion amongst (the coaching staff) as to who’s going to be the starter and who’s going to be the backup,” explained Burke.

“We just feel that (Pierce, Brink and Goltz) will bring us closer to the Grey Cup.”

Last season, the Bombers quarterback situation was more like a turnstile, with Pierce, Brink, Elliott and at the latter stages of the year Goltz, getting significant playing time under centre.

It all started when Pierce sustained a foot injury in Week 3 that saw him miss nine games. During that span, neither Brink nor Elliott was able to fully dislodge the starting position from Pierce’s grasp.

Upon his return to action in Week 13, Pierce was solid in a 34-12 win over the Tiger-Cats, a win that at the time, seemed to have shifted the focus away from the Bombers’ QB situation. One week later, however, it all started again, as Pierce went down with another injury, this time suffering a mild concussion.

He missed only two weeks, but was sidelined yet again before the team played its final game of the season.

In that final game, Goltz turned some heads with his performance, leading some to believe that he should definitely be in the Bombers’ plans for the 2013 campaign.
It’s a confusing situation to say the least, which is likely why Burke wasn’t able to commit when asked whether Elliott’s release paved the way for Pierce to start during the upcoming season.

“It does not mean that,” smiled Burke. “It just means the Joey won’t be,” he added.

However, Burke did note that he might be closer to resolving the situation that first anticipated, stating that he could hand the ball to any one of his three QBs within the next couple of weeks.

At first glance, it would be somewhat of a surprise if the ball wouldn’t land in the hands of Pierce. When healthy, the 31-year-old has proven to be a dynamic and tough on-field presence for the Bombers.

A trait that Burke says hasn’t gone unnoticed.

“He’s a team guy and he’s a competitor,” said Burke.

“Buck will say ‘I’ll do anything you want’. So obviously we’re looking at him in all different roles and one of them is as the starter,” he added.

Should Pierce once again be given the starting job, it’s unclear as to how long is leash will be. His injury troubles have raised eyebrows over the last few seasons, but his stats are impressive enough to keep putting him back under centre.

In 2011, Pierce completed 261 of his 411 passes for 3,348 yards and 14 touchdowns, en-route to leading the Bombers to an appearance in the 99th Grey Cup.

However, his high expectations weren’t met in 2012, as his foot and head injuries sparked words that he simply wasn’t durable enought o be a starting QB in the CFL.

Nonetheless, the ball is in Burke’s court to make a decision. And you can bet that when a decision is made, it won’t be one that made on impulse.