Prior to Thursday, Buck Pierce had been all smiles, jokes and laughs during his two months with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
He was the new guy in town, loving the atmosphere in Winnipeg and thankful for a new lease on his football life.
That all changed on Thursday, when the quarterback officially put his game face on just 36 hours before his debut with the Blue and Gold.
When it was jokingly pointed out that his old teammate, Ticats linebacker Otis Floyd, had only his second career interception off of Pierce last July, the 28-year-old didn’t even smile.
“He did that one time,” Pierce said matter-of-factly, looking like he would’ve loved rattling off all the instances where he beat Floyd on a passing play.
In other words, Pierce is ready to get this party started. Set adrift by the B.C. Lions in the off-season and with a history of head injuries weighing him down, he was able to resurface in Winnipeg.
He earned the starting job in training camp, which wasn’t a surprise, and it didn’t take him long to earn the respect of his teammates, being an offensive captain earlier this week.
Pierce takes control of a Bomber offence that managed just 3,600 passing yards last season — its lowest total since 1979 — and logic suggests it will take him a while to get it going. In B.C. he had the good fortune of not much turnover and the same system in which to work.
“A lot of things have been different, from city to city to move to move to players in the locker-room,” Pierce said. “But it’s all been good change. It’s kind of brought life back into me and given me opportunities again, and I’m thankful for that.”
Pierce has a 3-2 career record against the Tiger-Cats, with both of the setbacks occurring last season. He has 12 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in nine appearances against the Tabbies.
“They’re definitely a competitive team and definite contenders now,” Pierce said. “They bring a lot of energy, they brought a lot of good players in with a lot of speed and they play off energy and momentum.”
Floyd was wary last year when he faced Pierce, his teammate in B.C. for four seasons, and he will be even more so on Friday.
“I know he’s got something to prove,” Floyd said Thursday. “I know he’s going to be playing with a chip on his shoulder this year. When you’re playing with a chip on your shoulder, you’re going to be a dangerous guy out there.”