As far as Buck Pierce is concerned, he's good to go, but Winnipeg head coach Paul LaPolice hasn't decided which quarterback he'll play when the Blue Bombers host the CFL East final in two weeks.
“I won't make that decision until I see him on the field,” LaPolice said Monday.
“For me, right now, I'm ready to put the pads on and go,” said Pierce, who has been recovering from a knee injury and insists he's ready to practise whenever the call comes.
He said he had been working towards playing this weekend, if Winnipeg had to play its way into the final. Montreal's 43-1 loss to the B.C. Lions handed Winnipeg the bye and home-field advantage without any more work, however.
It's still something to be proud of, Pierce said, even though the Bombers didn't play their way into top spot. They lost their last game to the Calgary Stampeders 30-24, when a win would have made Montreal's result irrelevant.
“We haven't been favourites at all all year and here we sit at first place in the East . . . When all is said and done it's a one-game season right now.”
It's certainly a major turnaround for the Bombers, despite a few issues in the last half of the season. Their 10-8 finish is a lot better than last year's 4-14 early exit at the end of regular play. They're playing in their first division final since 2007 and they haven't won a Grey Cup since 1990, which, coincidentally, was at B.C. Place where this year's final will be held.
LaPolice says they have to be ready, no matter who is throwing the ball Nov. 20.
“I'll be as confident with whoever plays, whether it's quarterback or running back or wide receiver, because that's what you have to do.”
The bye should give the Bombers time to get most of their regular roster healthy enough to play, he said. That might even include safety Ian Logan, who had an emergency appendectomy.
Pierce has been out with a sprained right knee since Winnipeg's Oct. 28 loss to the Toronto Argonauts. Replacement Alex Brink is 0-2 in his two starts so far this season.
The most recent was Saturday's defeat in Calgary. The Bombers were down 24-0 midway through the second quarter before they picked up their game and battled back.
It was typical of the slow start that has plagued the team for most of this season and LaPolice says they can't let that happen again.
“We have to make sure we can play focused football,” said the coach.
The pasting B.C. handed to Montreal has to make any CFL East challenger a little concerned about facing the Lions in the Grey Cup. Like Winnipeg, they secured their division top spot and a bye into the Western final, but they did it with a win since Calgary was chomping at their heels. Calgary and Edmonton now must play for the right to challenge for the CFL West title.
“They've got the opportunity to win one more and have the Cup at home, so I know that's a huge motivation for them,” Pierce said of the Lions.
LaPolice wouldn't be drawn into any speculation about a Grey Cup game he hasn't yet got a right to play.
“I'm not even going to think about who's on the other side. We've got to beat whatever team shows up here, so we'll prepare this week for Hamilton and Montreal.”
The CFL East final also is supposed to be the last game the Bombers play at CanadInns Stadium. Their new home on the grounds of the University of Manitoba is set to be open next season.