Ready in reserve
Much-maligned backup QB’s confidence won’t waver
PUBLICLY, he says he’s ready to start. And publicly, he promises if he does start, he will play better than he has lately. But privately, you have to wonder if Winnipeg Blue Bombers backup quarterback Brian Brohm is secretly at the top of a long list of people hoping Drew Willy’s injured right knee heals in time for him to start Thursday at Investors Group Field against the B.C. Lions.
The prospect of Brohm, who is QB non grata in Bombers Nation after a couple of disastrous relief appearances this season, trotting out for the start of a game at Winnipeg’s stadium to a cascade of boos is as real as it would be unseemly.
Asked if he was prepared for the possibility of being booed by his team’s fans if he gets the call to play Thursday, Brohm said he would weather any storm.
“I’ve been through a lot in my career, so I can take anything,” Brohm told reporters Tuesday after the Bombers (2-3) held their only full practice session this week.
“I’ve been around the block. So nothing that’s going to happen is going to bother me. My confidence isn’t going to waver.”
Brohm is public enemy No. 1 among many Bombers fans after yet another poor performance in relief of an injured Willy last Saturday at Commonwealth Stadium in what went into the books as a 32-3 loss to the Edmonton Eskimos.
Brohm threw two interceptions and was just 9-for19 for 71 yards in relief of Willy. Brohm has thrown four interceptions and zero touchdown passes this season, reinforcing what many in Bombers Nation believed heading into the 2015 season: it should be third-stringer Robert Marve, not Brohm, who is first off the bench if Willy gets hurt.
That’s not going to happen this week, however.
Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea has said Brohm will start this week if Willy can’t go, but Marve could return to once again handle the club’s short-yardage packages.
Marve, who has dressed the last two games despite not taking any reps at practice due to an undisclosed injury, practised Tuesday for the first time in two weeks with the second-team offence.
Brohm split the first-team reps with Willy for the first half of practice and stepped aside again near the end to give Willy some more work.
Moving gingerly and never faster than half-speed, Willy was the only quarterback wearing sweatpants — the three others wore shorts — so it wasn’t clear if Willy was wearing a brace on his right knee, which he injured during the third quarter of that loss in Edmonton.
Willy left practice a few minutes early for what the team’s media relations staff said was an appointment with a doctor. He was not made available to the media afterward.
After practice, O’Shea said he liked what he saw out of Willy, but added a final decision on whether
‘I’ve been around the block. So nothing that’s going to happen is going to bother me. My confidence isn’t going to waver’
he will start against the Lions (2-2) won’t come until today or possibly even game day.
“He’s feeling better. He’s progressing,” said O’Shea. “But we’ll see how he feels the morning after he put some work in...
“This is one of those decisions we’ll make as late as possible.”
Whoever lines up under centre Thursday night will be doing so behind an offensive line that will have at least one new starter this week — and possibly two.
Patrick Neufeld unexpectedly practised Tuesday in place of veteran left guard Chris Greaves, the only remaining regular starter from last year’s offensive line. Greaves is not hurt, but O’Shea confirmed the club is seriously considering starting Neufeld in place of Greaves on Thursday.
“We’ve got nice depth at guard and Paddy Neufeld has been ready. We’ve put him in and gotten him some more reps and we’ll see how that looks,” the head coach said. “We’ll make a decision on the Oline on Wednesday.”
If Neufeld slots in for Greaves, it would be the second change this week. Devin Tyler, who started at right tackle last week, but was injured, is being replaced this week by Jace Daniels, who started at that position the first four games of this CFL season.
In other news out of sick bay, injured slotback Nick Moore and linebacker Tony Burnett didn’t practise on Tuesday, but O’Shea said both are still possible for Thursday. Linebacker Graig Newman, who hurt his arm in Edmonton, was back practising Tuesday. Defensive tackle Bryant Turner (thumb) will miss his third consecutive game this week, while defensive end Greg Peach (undisclosed injury) will miss his second game in a row.