THE CANADIAN PRESS
WINNIPEG -- The Winnipeg Blue Bombers have cleaned out their lockers and are heading home, but a rough season has left a big question mark hanging over the quarterback position for 2013.
For the first time since Buck Pierce arrived and became the starter, the team seems to be looking hard at other options.
"I would say there will be competition for the starting position at quarterback,'' coach Tim Burke said Sunday after ending the season with a win over Montreal a day earlier that left the team with a 6-12 record.
|Will Buck be Back?|
- Bombers QB Buck Pierce
That doesn't come as a huge surprise.
Pierce missed 11 games with a foot injury, concussion and finally a shoulder problem. He played in 16 games in 2011 and took the team to the Grey Cup in B.C., which they lost.
But he also missed most of his first season in Winnipeg in 2010 and injuries were one of the big issues he faced when he was with the B.C. Lions.
"Obviously, the way the season went for me and the way we left this year, there's going to be changes,'' said Pierce.
He says he knows he can win games if he can stay healthy. But Pierce understands the reality the team is facing as it decides where to go next season, after missing the playoffs when they hoped to get back to the Grey Cup.
"I'm being real too,'' he said. "I understand the situations that I'm going to be put in and the discussions that have to be made. But I'm more confident than ever in my ability and what I can do and knowing that I can lead this team and get them back to a Grey Cup.''
Pierce insists he does all he can to stay healthy.
"I truly feel like I do everything right. I do everything in my power to keep my body healthy and live the right way, sometimes it doesn't work out for you,'' he said. "I took a lot of hits in situations where I think I shouldn't have taken hits.''
Inexperience on the offensive line as the season started didn't help.
Quarterback isn't the only spot that will be under review in the off-season as Burke, confirmed as head coach for next season prior to the Montreal game, and general manager Joe Mack roll up their sleeves.
Burke, the former defensive coordinator who replaced Paul LaPolice in mid-season, wasn't happy with the way his defence played.
He'll be looking to hire a new defensive co-ordinator to help make changes.
"It's my philosophy that you win with speed on defence, so I'm going to find a defensive co-ordinator that fits my philosophy,'' he said.
He'd like to hang on to free agents like Johnny Sears and Jason Vega but knows some will test NFL waters and might slip away to higher bidders in Canada.
But he also had a tough message for all his players as they prepared to leave for the off-season.
"I want them to know right now, you're coming back with a great attitude and great work ethic or you're not going to be here,'' said Burke.
There were highlights such as two 1,000-yard-plus receivers - rookie Chris Matthews and veteran Terrence Edwards - and a rookie running back who also racked up more than 1,000 in Chad Simpson.
But the season got off to a rocky start on and off the field.