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*** 2013 CFL Eastern Preview - Winnipeg Blue Bombers ***

From The Sports Network

By Ted Michaels, CFL Editor

Winnipeg, MB (Sports Network) - Football is the ultimate team sport.

Yet, in football, any coach or player will tell you, a team will go as far as the quarterback takes them.

And in Winnipeg, that quarterback is Buck Pierce.

Heading into the 2013 season, head coach Tim Burke and the Bomber faithful all wonder the same thing... can Pierce stay healthy?

Since signing with the Blue Bombers in April 2010, Pierce, a New Mexico State grad, has started in just 28 of 54 regular-season games.

Tough? Without a doubt.

Unlucky? Without a doubt.

Pierce reported to training camp this year 20 pounds lighter, weighing 195 pounds. His body far has also been trimmed, from 15 to 8 percent.

"They've always wanted to play a big heavier, so I could absorb hits," he said. "They allowed me to drop weight to where I feel comfortable, and that goes back to my early days at New Mexico State, when I was running the option and things like that. I feel like I'm back in my early 20s. I feel good."

That's just fine with the coach.

"I'm for anything that he feels good about," said Burke. "(Anthony) Calvillo did the same thing (in Montreal) a few years back. Drew Brees (New Orleans Saints QB), same thing. Their coaches would like him to be heavier and he would rather be lighter so he could be more mobile in the pocket. And that's what Buck's goal is. It's Cassius Clay as opposed to Sonny Liston."

Pierce isn't the only Blue Bomber that showed up looking different. Offensive lineman Justin Sorenson now weighs 310 pounds, down from last season's 340. Defensive back Jovon Johnson has added four pounds, while running back Chad Simpson has put on 15 pounds of muscle.

Simpson hopes to duplicate last season, when he finished fourth in the league in rushing with 1,039 yards on 173 carries, and his six-yard average was tops among all starting running backs, despite missing four games.

Chris Garrett is also vying for the number one running back spot. Garrett came to camp last season and tore his Achilles' tendon in his foot during practice and was forced to miss the entire season with the injury.

The starting five receiving corps are all back for 2013: Chris Matthews, who led the team in receiving (81 catches for 1,192 yards and seven touchdowns), Terrence Edwards (70 receptions for 1,049 yards and 4 touchdowns), Clarence Denmark (55 catches, 649 yards, one major), Kito Poblah (41 receptions, 417 yards, and one touchdown) and Cory Watson (35 catches, 344 yards and one touchdown).

Defensively, Burke has already read the riot act to his secondary. Play better or you'll be gone. That means last year's starters: Johnson, Jonathan Hefney, Alex Suber and Brandon Stewart are on the clock. Burke has already released last year's starting safety Ian Logan, who will be replaced by Cauchy Muamba, who signed as a free agent after three years in BC.

Winnipeg suffered a huge loss on the defensive line when Jason Vega went to the New England Patriots. Alex Hall, last year's team sack leader with nine in just 14 games, will be joined by returnees Bryant Turner and Andre Caroll.

This will be an exciting year in Winnipeg, with the opening of Investors Group Field, a state of the art, $200 million building. The players are raving about the facilities, and the fans love the comfort and sight lines.

The Bombers should be better than last year. Burke has said the goal in 2013 is to make the playoffs.

But here's a sobering statistic.

Behind Pierce, the backup quarterbacks are Max Hall and Chase Clement. Combined they've thrown 14 passes in the CFL.

It's no wonder, when he was asked about the quarterback situation, Burke said he'd ask Winnipeg fans to get their rosary beads out.

He was kidding.

We think.

FACTS & FIGURES: Division - East. 2012 record - 6-12, 3rd place in East. Playoff result: missed playoffs. Stadium - Investors Group Field Capacity - 33,422 (partially covered) Colors - Blue and Gold.

06/10 15:43:41 ET

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