Buck Pierce walked into the Winnipeg Blue Bomber boardroom and gingerly sat down to face the media horde, his arm in a brace, his season likely over — but his spirit still treading water.
Surrounded by pictures of all-time Bomber greats, the quarterback who can’t seem to stay healthy may never join them on that wall.
But it won’t be for lack of trying.
“I honestly feel that I can come back from it,” Pierce said. “Quarterbacks and pitchers have dislocated their throwing arms, and they have been able to come back from it. And been better.”
That is Pierce’s goal, like it always is. After concussions. After shoulder, toe and rib injuries. This year’s knee sprain. Now, a dislocated elbow, with bone chips on the humerus, just for good measure.
Pierce’s shopping list of career injuries demands a supermarket, stocked to the hilt.
He came to Winnipeg with questions swirling around his head, which has stayed intact. Instead, the extremities are failing, one after another, in relatively innocent plays.
The latest, a harmless-looking fall after a pass in Regina, Sunday. Only instead of landing on the turf, his elbow found an opponent’s helmet.
“I couldn’t move my arm,” Pierce said. “You kind of go into a little bit of shock. Everything happened so fast, you really don’t realize what’s wrong. But you understand something’s not right, something’s not where it’s supposed to be.
“I looked at the other guy’s faces out there on the field, and they looked pretty worried for me.”
Then came the ride out of the stadium, catcalls raining down from the lunatics of Rider Nation.
At the hospital, the real fun began.
“They relocated it,” Pierce said. “But they were able to sedate me and make me comfortable.”
How comfortable will his team be without him?
Pierce may have inadvertently provided some hope when he talked about the support he received from his teammates.
“This locker room here is more like a family than, probably, any other locker room I’ve been in,” he said. “To walk into the locker room after an injury like that, after a loss like that, to have everybody there and honestly concerned for you... there’s not a lot of fake people.”
Back for their first day of practice, post-dislocation, their concern seemed as real as their 2-7 record.
“I feel for the guy. I truly do,” his favourite receiver, Terrence Edwards, said.
“Two injuries that he’s had this year were just freak. When one of your brothers goes down, you try to pick it up.”
Pierce will still have a hand in it, too, if not his entire arm.
He plans to study opponents and help out, be an extra coach, in effect.
His future, though, has to be as uncertain as it was following his release from the B.C. Lions last winter.
Sure, he’s got a year left on his Bomber contract.
But will Winnipeg, or any team, for that matter, want to go into another season investing time and money in a no-luck Buck?
Again, Pierce may have provided the answer without knowing it, when a reporter asked him how his parents were handling all this back in California.
“I’m sure I’ve given them a lot of grey hair over the years,” he said. “And I’ll pay them back some day.”
The Bombers showed faith in Pierce, once, when nobody else would.
Maybe they can show it one more time.
And maybe he’ll pay them back, one day.
Perhaps, down the road, we’ll look at the pictures of Jack Jacobs and Ken Ploen on the walls of a new stadium, and remember a certain No. 4.
A player who finally enjoyed a year where the rest of his body matched the sturdiness of his heart.
Contact Paul at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 632-2788.