Tee time finally here

Tee Martin led Tennessee to an NCAA championship a few years back and will see his first game...

Tee Martin led Tennessee to an NCAA championship a few years back and will see his first game action since 2003 this week for the Blue Bombers. (Winnipeg Sun/Marcel Cretain)

PAUL FRIESEN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 8:29 AM ET

Maybe it's because he followed Peyton Manning at the University of Tennessee and promptly did what Manning couldn't, leading the Volunteers to a national championship a few years back.

Maybe it's because he took the rare step of coming to Winnipeg mid-season last year, right after being released in the NFL.

Or maybe it's simply because, over the last year or two, any mention of the word "quarterback" in these parts has caused football fans to go into convulsions.

Whatever the case, it's been a long time since the debut of a relatively young, unproven quarterback in this town has been met with the anticipation of Tee Martin's first appearance in a CFL uniform.

"I'm excited," Martin said yesterday, looking ahead to Thursday's pre-season tilt with the Eskimos. "It's a chance to get hit again."

In case you're wondering, the last time Martin got hit was Dec. 28, 2003, when he came off the Oakland Raiders bench against San Diego.

Safe to say, he won't be saving the film of that one: he completed two of 11 passes for 14 yards and an interception, as the Raiders managed zero net yards passing.

HOOKED UP

Little wonder, then, that he prefers to recall his previous game in Green Bay, when he hooked up with the NFL's all-time leading receiver, Jerry Rice, a few times in a 4-for-5 relief performance on Monday Night Football.

"My biggest memory of my whole professional career is getting an opportunity to throw the ball to Jerry Rice," Martin said.

Well, if that remains the greatest accomplishment of Martin's football career, then a lot of people will have expended a lot of hot air for nothing.

Because from the Bomber fanatics patrolling the Internet chat lines all the way up to the GM's office, there's been this fascination with seeing what Martin can do since he arrived last September.

Put another way, a spring Tee time around here hasn't been this anticipated since Keith Tkachuk and the Jets left town.

"Everyone's going to have a chance to see him play, including me," GM Brendan Taman said. "It should be fun to see. I'm looking forward to it."

So what can we expect?

Far less than the buildup, probably.

Martin himself says he's not the second coming of Dieter Brock. Or Khari Jones, for that matter.

"My motto is not about winning the game as much as it is about not losing the game," explained the Alabama native. "I'm not a quarterback who's going to sit there and make a lot of gambles. You're not going to see a guy who just throws the ball up for grabs a whole lot. I don't do that.

"Sometimes it may look conservative, sometimes it may look wide open. I'll take what the defence gives me."

Bomber fans don't care what it looks like, as long as it moves the chains.

Oh, and winning wouldn't hurt, either.

Not that Martin will have a ton of say in that.

Head coach Jim Daley says the 26-year-old is scheduled to play the third quarter only.

Daley seems to be the only guy in town who's not in a hurry to see Martin throw a football in anger. He is, after all, the one who refused to let the guy play at the end of last season.

"The fixation with a big-name player, coming out of Tennessee and then the NFL, is a fan and media view," Daley said. "Our view is the football team."

Fair enough.

The view from here says this team still needs someone to grab the quarterback job the way Brock wrestled it from Chuck Ealey back in '75. Or the way Jones took it from Kerwin Bell five years ago.

It may not be Tee Martin who grabs it, but it's about time he got the chance.


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