WINNIPEG - He doesn’t have anything other than a headache, but some CFL fans and analysts are already calling for Buck Pierce to retire from football after absorbing a vicious head shot on Saturday night against the Toronto Argonauts.
Pack it in, they say. Call it a career. Never mind that the Winnipeg Blue Bombers aren’t officially eliminated from playoff contention yet. Clean out the locker and go coach high school football.
“People have to have something to talk about that’s controversial,” Bombers head coach Burke said, rolling his eyes at those playing the role of Doogie Howser and/or Pierce’s mom.
As of Sunday at 2 p.m., Pierce had a headache and nothing more. However, because of the focus these days on concussions and chronic traumatic encephalopathy, the degenerative brain disease found in former Bomber Doug MacIver and other late football players, most automatically assume Pierce was concussed after taking a shot to the chin from Brandon Isaac on Saturday night that caused him to sit out the second half for precautionary reasons.
And there is still a chance Pierce suffered a concussion, as Burke said Sunday that Pierce will be evaluated over the next few days. The 30-year-old didn’t have a concussion on Sunday and his headache was less severe than it was on Saturday night, but concussions can show up days or weeks after the impact.
“(The doctors) are cautiously optimistic,” Burke said. “He’s going to be evaluated for the next couple days, and we’ll know something probably Wednesday or Thursday.”
The Bombers will be careful. Burke said a neurologist will be involved in the evaluation of Buck’s brain, and there’s no way trainer Alain Couture would let an injured player on the field. This isn’t the 1950s where they rub some dirt on it and throw you back out there. Concussions have to be reported to a league-wide database.
Pierce doesn’t seem to be affected by head shots like some others are. He’s had to leave CFL games due to head shots three times before Saturday, but only once did he miss any starts. Depending on whom you believe, he’s suffered between two and six concussions since college.
The B.C. Lions released Pierce because he couldn’t stay healthy, and the Bombers did an extensive check of his medical history before signing him in April 2010. True to form, Pierce hasn’t been able to stay healthy during his time in Winnipeg, but head injuries haven’t been the problem.
Pierce said he was diagnosed with only one concussion as a pro, which was courtesy of a Claude Harriott hit in August 2009. However, Lions trainer Bill Reichelt said Pierce also suffered a concussion against Saskatchewan in September 2008, and the Vancouver media reported Pierce had five concussions during his five seasons with the Leos. Pierce has admitted to getting a concussion in college as well.
Considering how tough it is to define a concussion, your guess is as good as mine as to how many Pierce has actually had.
“A lot of people are saying he should retire,” Burke said. “You hear all these things, ‘Oh, he’s had seven concussions,’ which is absolutely not true. He’s never had that many concussions. I don’t know how many he’s had, but it’s not even close to that.”
Should Pierce be worried about CTE later in life? Of course, just like every football player should be. I eat a lot of salt. Others like to bathe in the sun. If people think Pierce should retire, then we might as well just make football illegal.
I asked Burke on Sunday if Pierce was worried about his latest head injury.
“He said he felt good other than the headache,” Burke said.
In other words, don’t be surprised one bit to see Pierce under centre next Monday in Montreal.
BUCK’S HEAD HISTORY
Buck Pierce has had to leave four CFL games due to a head injury. A look at those incidents and other head shots he’s endured:
Sept. 29, 2012
Argos linebacker Brandon Isaac drilled Pierce in the chin with his helmet late in the first quarter. Pierce went to the locker-room to have his chin stitched up along with a concussion test and is cleared to return. He is removed from the game at the half because he developed a headache. His status will be known in a couple of days.
Aug. 14, 2009
Argos defensive end Claude Harriott hammered Pierce after the latter threw an interception at Rogers Centre. According to the Vancouver papers, Pierce suffered from nausea, vomiting and other post-concussion symptoms on the sideline. He was diagnosed with a concussion and missed three starts. It’s the only concussion Pierce has admitted to having in the CFL.
July 16, 2009
Eskimos defensive back Elliott Richardson popped Pierce in the head as the quarterback was sliding feet first on the grass at Commonwealth Stadium. He left the game and didn’t return. The Lions didn’t call it a concussion, he took first-team reps at practice three days later and started the following week.
Sept. 20, 2008
Roughriders linebacker Maurice Lloyd laid a clean hit on Pierce in the fourth quarter at Mosaic Stadium, knocking the QB unconscious. His headaches and “heavy head” cleared within a couple of days, and he started the following week. Lions trainer Bill Reichelt was quoted in the Vancouver Sun as calling it a concussion, while the Vancouver Province reported it was Pierce’s second career concussion.
July 28, 2011 — Pierce had a head-on collision with B.C. linebacker Solomon Elimimian but left the game a few plays later with a “calf” injury. Pierce, however, admitted to having “cobwebs” after the hit.
July 23, 2011 — Argos linebacker E.J. Kuale was ejected after delivering a helmet-to-chin blast to Pierce at Rogers Centre. Pierce stayed in the game.
Oct. 17, 2008 — As a member of the Lions, Pierce took a head shot from Eskimos linebacker Kenny Onatolu but remained in the contest.
2002 — Pierce told the Vancouver Sun he suffered a concussion while playing at New Mexico State in 2002.