The Winnipeg Blue Bombers are hoping their third quarterback of the season will lead them to their second victory of 2012.
Joey Elliott, out last season with a torn knee ligament, will start Thursday in place of Alex Brink when Winnipeg (1-5) hosts the Hamilton Tiger-Cats (3-3).
“It’s a great opportunity,” Elliott said after practice Monday. “Your family’s been backing you through a long injury, a lot of ups and downs with an injury, and to be able to come back and be able get a start under your belt, it feels really good.”
Offensive co-ordinator Gary Crowton and head coach Paul LaPolice say there wasn’t a lot separating Brink and Elliott in training camp this year.
Elliott’s injured leg (he still wears a brace) had to be a factor but he insists it should not be an issue.
“I feel like the knee’s doing perfectly fine,” Elliot said. “I’ve ran around, feeling perfectly confident on it.”
Both Crowton and LaPolice are careful not to put any blame on Brink, who was 1-2 as a starter.
He did manage to deliver their only win in 2012, a 23-22 nailbiter against the Edmonton Eskimos.
“Neither guy has earned two and neither guy doesn’t deserve two, if that makes sense,” LaPolice said of the slot behind injured starter Buck Pierce.
Brink’s two losses bookended his win — 25-22 defeat July 18 in Toronto, where he completed only 9-of-34 passes, and an Aug. 3 home loss where he hit on 25-of-39 throws, but still lost 36-26 to Montreal.
“Alex was behind Joey last year (on the depth chart),” said Crowton, a former U.S. college and NFL coach in his first season guiding the Bombers offence.
“This year it was neck and neck, so we felt like Alex did some good things but we want to see what Joey can do. And Joey’s really worked hard, looked pretty good in practice, so we’re going to give him that opportunity.”
This is Elliott’s third year in the CFL, all with the Bombers.
In all that time he’s started only two games, in 2010, when Pierce was out for most of the season and the Bombers finished dead last in the CFL at 4-14. Brink and Steven Jyles, the club’s backup at the time, were also injured.
Last season, that torn ACL cost him his shot and Brink filled in, getting more experience.
Now, the young product of Purdue, who celebrated his 26th birthday just two weeks ago, is finally getting another chance. The Bombers are in need of something fast to shake off their worst start since 2008.
“I think Joey Elliott has some tools that are very good. He anticipates throws,” LaPolice said. “He gets the ball out of his hands quickly. He’s as accurate a passer as have.”
Despite the change, LaPolice won’t say quarterback is his weakest offensive link.
“That’s hard to say because throwing the football is built into so many things, whether it’s dropped passes or protection, being able to run the ball and keeping people off balance.
“I wouldn’t characterize that as the weakest part. I just think our offence has to get better.”
Elliott, meanwhile, isn’t short on confidence.
“I’ve been here for a few years,” said Elliot, who has completed just 51.4 per cent of his passes in the CFL. “It’s not like they’re going with a rookie.”