Jury's still out on Blue's Elliott

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers Joey Elliott scrambles for a first down at Commonwealth Stadium in...

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers Joey Elliott scrambles for a first down at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton, Alberta on October 30, 2010. (JORDAN VERLAGE/QMI AGENCY)

KIRK PENTON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:43 PM ET

If there's one thing Joey Elliott knows, it's being a backup quarterback.

The poor guy spent three years as the backup to future Indianapolis Colts pivot Curtis Painter at Purdue University, and now he enters his first full season with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers as the No. 2 behind Buck Pierce.

It's not written in stone, of course, but head coach Paul LaPolice and general manager Joe Mack both said during off-season that Elliott will be No. 2 on the Bombers depth chart -- also known as the most popular athlete in Winnipeg.

Given Pierce's injury history and the trade of veteran backup Steven Jyles to Toronto in the off-season, Elliott is one of the key players to watch when Bomber training camp kicks off with the rookies on June 1 and then the veterans on June 5. Elliott and the rest of the quarterbacking crew will take part in the rookie camp.

"I'm pretty excited," Elliott said Sunday as he made preparations for his journey to Canada this week. "Last year was a great year, a great learning experience for myself and for our whole offence with it being young. Training camp's going to be fun."

Basically half the Bomber fan base said good riddance to Jyles, who lost the confidence of the team brass in early October and was replaced by Alex Brink, who will be No. 3 on the depth chart going into camp.

The other half of Bomber Nation wasn't ready to part with Jyles just yet, citing the lack of CFL experience in the quarterback stable behind the injury-prone Pierce, who started five games for the Bombers last season but was able to finish only two of them.

Elliott has never been short on confidence, a trait every coach wants to see in his quarterback, but the 24-year-old admits he doesn't have all the answers just yet.

"I have a lot to learn," he said. "Coach (Jamie Barresi) was e-mailing some terms and plays to stay fresh on it, but I have a lot to learn from Buck. He's been in the league for quite some time. He's a great guy, and he'll get on the (white) board and say, 'Hey, this is what we're talking about.' "

Regardless of how confident Mack and LaPolice are in his abilities, the bottom line is the jury's still out on Elliott -- as it is with most backups in the CFL. He started the final two games last season and finished the campaign with two touchdown passes, three interceptions and a 48% completion rate.

Elliott spent the winter in Houston training with former Edmonton Eskimos pivot Jared Zabransky and Esks receiver Fred Stamps. He also worked with a nutritionist.

The gung-ho gunslinger with the endless supply of enthusiasm can't wait to get going. He said last season's adversity actually made the Bombers a tighter unit, and he believes good things are ahead.

"Last year we had that bonding experience," he said. "A lot of tough losses and our team got a lot closer. That's pretty tough to do for a professional football team.

"That's going to take our game to the next level."

kirk.penton@sunmedia.ca


Videos

Photos