The Calgary Stampeders will make a game-day call on their starting quarterback, but the Winnipeg Blue Bombers have locked in backup Justin Goltz for Friday.
Regular Winnipeg starter Buck Pierce didn’t seem too pleased with the decision Thursday — not that he didn’t wish Goltz well, but he said he feels healthy enough to play.
“I’m a teammate first and that’s what I’ll be,” he said.
“Am I happy about it? You know no I’m not, but I want to make sure that we go out there and we perform.”
Pierce said he didn’t know whether his job as a starter was in jeopardy after a 1-3 start to the season.
“It’s up to them, it’s out of my control,” he said.
Head coach Tim Burke dismissed any suggestion the decision not to start him was related to anything other than his health.
“If he was healthy, he’d be starting, but he’s not so he isn’t,” the coach said, suggesting that Pierce will insist he’s healthy enough to play “as long as he’s breathing.”
“I’m sure he’s not happy that he’s not playing but you know it is what it is, he’s hurt. To put him out there and risk further injury or more serious injury would be, I mean, it just wouldn’t be very ethical on our part.”
As for Calgary, Burke says he expects to see Bo Levi Mitchell when the whistle blows, although Calgary coach John Hufnagel hasn’t made that clear, keeping Drew Tate’s return a possibility.
“It will be a game-day decision between Drew and Bo,” Hufnagel said this week as his team prepared to face the Bombers at Investors Group Field.
Kevin Glenn is No. 3 at best for the Stamps after getting roughed up in their come-from-behind win over the Montreal Alouettes last week that lifted Calgary to a 3-1 record in second place in the CFL West.
Tate appears to be getting back in shape after taking a break due to a muscle strain in his throwing arm.
“I really wasn’t that concerned,” Hufnagel said of his quarterbacking choices this week.
“I’m disappointed in Kevin’s progress. I thought I would have an opportunity to pick one of the three.”
Burke said he made his starter call Wednesday, based on Pierce’s condition after a helmet hit to the abdomen in Winnipeg’s 35-19 loss to the Toronto Argonauts last week.
He’s still on the depth chart but at No. 3, behind CFL rookie Max Hall, and Burke suggested if he did take the field all they’d let him do would be hand off the ball.
Goltz finished the last game for Pierce and acquitted himself pretty well, completing 13 of 15 passes for 170 yards.
This is his fourth season with the Bombers but first start. He was always No. 3 on the backup depth chart behind Alex Brink and Joey Elliott, both cut by the Bombers in the off-season.
“I thought I’d be a little more nervous than I am,” he said as he faced reporters for the first time as a starter.
“This is what I’ve been working for for a long time and it’s finally here. I thought the emotions and anxiety would be a little bit more but I think that’s a good thing.”
Hufnagel, meanwhile, likes what he sees in Mitchell, who joined the Stamps as a backup last season, but added he’s young and still makes mistakes.
“He’s a good player. He’s been productive when he’s on the field,” says the coach and general manager of the Stampeders.
Hufnagel expects a very physical game.
“I know their team is going to be emotionally high,” he says of the Bombers.
“They’re very physical. Their defence, they’re in the top in a lot of categories.”
That physical play will be helped by the return of defensive lineman Bryant Turner, adept at finding ways to get to an opposing quarterback.
Turner says he’s anxious to get back. He was a potent part of the sack machine that dried up a little in Winnipeg’s last outing, although the Bombers still have a league-leading 19.
Calgary wide receiver Tim Hawthorne is coming off the practice roster to fill in for Joe West, also injured last week.
Offensively, Hufnagel says the two teams are not far apart on yards, although his Stampeders are more efficient when it comes to points scored.
The Bombers have had difficulty cashing in once they enter the red zone but it’s not a new problem, after finishing 6-12 and out of the playoffs in 2012. They’ve managed 91 points so far this season to the Stampeders 125, while both have allowed 109.
Two Bombers were also fined this week by the CFL for illegal blocks in last week’s loss to Toronto.
Offensive lineman Glenn January got his for a chop block on Toronto Argonaut Khalif Mitchell and defensive back Teague Sherman was fined for blocking an opponent below the waist on a kickoff return.
Sherman was penalized on the play.