Bombers backup plan

JIM BENDER, WQMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:49 PM ET

Legends can sometimes be borne of such scenarios.

Joey Elliott, who was the club’s fourth-string quarterback earlier this year, will become the fourth different signal-caller to start for Winnipeg when they play the Eskimos in Edmonton on Saturday.

“There’s probably a lot of guys who could have been very good quarterbacks in this league who were backups for four years and, at some point, just said, ‘I need to do something else,’ ” Bombers head coach Paul LaPolice said Tuesday.

“The big test is obviously what he can do on the field. We’ve all seen what he can do in practice, now we’ll see what he can do on the field.”

Johnny Unitas, some may recall, began his career as a fourth-stringer, then went on to become an NFL legend.

“It sounds good,” said Elliott, 24. “Any time you get an opportunity like this as a quarterback with a great offence and a great head coach — you know, we’ve put up big numbers all year — we’ve just got to be able to capitalize.”

Elliott answered an S.O.S. to fill the No. 3 role when Buck Pierce, who began the season as Winnipeg’s starter, suffered his first injury. But when Pierce returned, the Bombers kept him around as their No. 4. When Pierce suffered a season-ending elbow injury, Elliott returned to the lineup as No. 3.

Both Steven Jyles, who started whenever Pierce was hurt, and backup Alex Brink, who started one game earlier this season, suffered season-ending shoulder injuries during the loss to the Toronto Argonauts last Saturday.

“I was hoping I would get a chance,” said Elliott. “You come up here wanting to compete at quarterback … Unfortunately, those guys went down and now, it’s my turn to step up and hopefully, I can make something happen on Saturday.”

The 6-foot-2, 216-pound Purdue product completed eight of 16 passes for 75 yards, with one interception, in his first CFL action when he played the last quarter and change versus the Argos.

“It was the deer in the headlights a little bit but I thought I got comfortable as the game went on,” Elliott said. “I said, ‘Well, no one else is going in. I don’t see another quarterback on the sidelines so, I’ve got to build some confidence pretty quick’ …

“I did some good things. I was moving the pocket and I was able to make plays and I gave the offence a little life at the end of the game, showing them what we can do next week and we’ve just got to build on that.”

LaPolice liked what he saw.

“He’s got some different ideas and he’s not afraid to speak his mind so, he’s got a confidence to him,” he said. “What I like about him on the football field is he makes a decision and he throws it, and the ball comes out of his hand quickly. That’s what we need. We need to do more of that. When quarterbacks do that, it catches the defence out of position.”

Elliott will have little pressure on him as the Bombers have already been eliminated from playoff contention and will be decided underdogs.

“I’m actually kind of glad it’s in Edmonton,” he admitted. “I feel like, if I was playing at home, I would have 30,000 people just watching me. But, on the road, I have my group of guys, everyone in the locker-room is pulling for me and we’ll take care of ourselves.”

Perhaps, Elliott was recalling Brink’s CFL debut when he was booed by hometown fans in an important game against the B.C. Lions.

“It will be great to see him play,” said LaPolice. “It’s a good opportunity for him to go to Edmonton and play a real exciting game, and try to win.”

jim.bender@sunmedia.ca


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