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Ready to go: Winnipeg quarterback Buck Pierce looking forward to next CFL season

04/26/2012 01:28 EDT | Updated 06/26/2012 05:12 EDT
WINNIPEG - Buck Pierce is heading into this season with a healthy mind and body.

That's a big difference from last year, when the Winnipeg Blue Bombers quarterback was coming off intense rehab after dislocating the elbow of his throwing arm in Sept. 2010.

Questions were swirling back then about whether he'd recover from the severe injury, but Pierce bounced back to start a career-high 16 regular-season games and lead the Bombers to an eventual Grey Cup loss to B.C.

This past winter, Pierce's focus was on regular workouts, making appearances in the community and settling into a Winnipeg house he'd bought.

"It's nice because you can work on the aspects of your game that sometimes you wouldn't have the chance to do while you're rehabbing," Pierce said this week at Winnipeg's mini camp.

"I was able to throw, I was able to run, I was able to do everything that a healthy guy can do in six months time. I feel good, I feel light, I feel strong, fast. I'll be ready for (training) camp."

Entering his eighth CFL season and third with the Bombers, the 30-year-old always maintains a positive attitude and confidence in his abilities.

That was especially needed when he was rehabbing his elbow. Research the team did on the injury revealed no professional quarterback had come back from such an injury to their throwing elbow.

The six-foot-one, 210-pound pivot was twice named the CFL player of the week last season and completed 261-of-411 pass attempts for 3,348 yards with 14 touchdowns and 18 interceptions.

Hitting 16 starts was a good achievement, but he's always looking to improve and help the Bombers put up victories. The club finished last season with a 10-8 record after a 7-1 start.

"Playing 18 games would be great and all that," Pierce said. "I want to play as many games as I can, obviously.

"I feel like I can play every game. I know everybody else probably doesn't think I can. If it happens, that's great. I'm just going to try to keep myself as healthy as possible for this season and prepare that way."

The Bombers retained their quarterbacking quartet from last year, which also includes Alex Brink, Joey Elliott and Justin Goltz.

Brink remains a Pierce booster and will again be ready to step in like he did last season for eight games, including two starts.

"This is Buck's team," said Brink, who's going into his third season with the squad.

"Buck took us to the Grey Cup last year. For me, it's another year where I can learn under him. He's a great player. I'm just going to work and be prepared for whenever my opportunity comes."

Pierce is looking forward to working with new offensive co-ordinator Gary Crowton, who replaced fired Jamie Barresi.

"We're going to keep a lot of our old concepts, but he brings his flavour and puts his stamp on our offence," Pierce said. "I really like what he does."

That includes a move toward getting the ball quickly out of the quarterback's hands.

"He likes athletic quarterbacks, he wants to be fast," Pierce said. "He wants to go and he wants to hit defences when they're most vulnerable."

Crowton has spent almost 30 years coaching at U.S. colleges and also in the NFL, but he's eager to take a crack at the CFL.

"There's some things that intrigue him and that's what makes it such a good fit," Pierce said.

"He's so willing to learn, too, and excited about the possibilities."

Pierce knows fans are also excited about this season and an opportunity for the club to return to the Grey Cup. Winnipeg hasn't won since 1990, the league's longest championship drought.

"We know our capabilities, we know nothing's owed to us," he said.

"But we also feel like we have something to accomplish. I think when you get as far as we did and not succeed, that really leaves something to go after."

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