WINNIPEG - Paul LaPolice was driving home the day after his Winnipeg Blue Bombers lost to Toronto last Friday when he decided to phone backup quarterback Alex Brink.
Brink had replaced injured Buck Pierce in the game when the score was 17-3 and battled back in what ended up being a 27-22 Argonauts victory.
"I just wanted to kind of say, 'Hey, good job in the game. I know we didn't win, but you did some good things and brought us back,'" the Bombers head coach said after his team's practice on Tuesday.
It's promising that LaPolice had positive things to say about Brink’s performance because the second-year pivot will be starting in a crucial game in Calgary on Saturday while Pierce recovers from a sprained right knee.
If the Bombers (10-7) defeat the Stampeders (10-7), they'll clinch first place in the CFL's East Division over the Montreal Alouettes (10-7).
The Als play the B.C. Lions (10-7) later that day. If Winnipeg and Montreal finish the regular season tied, the Bombers would get top spot and the bye by virtue of winning their season series 2-1.
Brink will be making his second start this season and third of his career. He started in a 32-26 loss to Montreal on Sept. 30 when Pierce was sitting with bruised ribs.
"I'm back," Brink said with a smile as reporters surrounded him after practice.
"I'm very excited. It's an incredible opportunity. Obviously, it's under unfortunate circumstances with Buck's injury, but I'm ready to go."
Pierce's latest injury happened when Argo defensive back Lin-J Shell fell on him while he threw an interception that Byron Parker took 50 yards for a touchdown.
The seven-year veteran said his knee is sore, but he hopes treatment will get him back in time for the playoffs.
"I had a slight (medial collateral ligament) tear last year early in the year and it's not quite as bad as that …," said Pierce, who missed three games because of that injury.
"I'm not going to put a timeline on this one. It feels better than the one I had last year, but they still want to be cautious and still make sure I can move around."
Winnipeg's quarterbacking situation wasn't the only uncertainty LaPolice was dealing with.
The Bombers will also be without defensive back Johnny Sears Jr., who was suspended one game without pay for his helmet-to-helmet hit on Toronto quarterback Steven Jyles in Winnipeg's loss.
Jyles was knocked out briefly after the hit and left the game, but said later he was fine. Sears was penalized and ejected.
The Blue Bombers spoke to reporters at a practice before Sears' was suspended, but LaPolice noted an ejection and fine has been the norm this season for hits to the head of quarterbacks.
"That's what I think is the most consistent thing, and I think as a league you want to be consistent," LaPolice said.
"It was a situation where it was handled well on the field. They ejected him and they can put a fine, but I wouldn't expect anything more. But that's not my call."
He said Sears didn't practise Tuesday because it was a normal day of rest for an ankle injury he suffered this season that still gets sore.
He has talked to Sears about the hit.
"I told him he was wrong," LaPolice said. "You can't lead with your head. It doesn't matter if it's a quarterback or whoever, you cannot lead with your head.
"It was a mistake and he's just got to learn from it."
Pierce also weighed in on the Sears' hit.
He recalled the late hit he took from Argos linebacker Ejiro Kuale earlier this season and Kuale wasn't suspended.
"I don't see really any difference between the two," Pierce said.
"I think they should be dealt with the same. But if you're going to institute something (different), I think you start that at the start of the year."