Three weeks after being demoted from starter to third-stringer, it appears Justin Goltz will be at quarterback when the Bombers battle the Saskatchewan Roughriders on Sunday in the 51st Labour Day Classic.
Gone are his feelings of betrayal. He is now thankful for having a job in football after two weeks of upheaval throughout the Bomber organization.
“It’s been a roller-coaster, but it’s a pleasure to be here, and you realize that when you see guys leaving week in and week out,? Goltz said. “You can’t really feel bad for yourself. You’re still part of something special. You’re still playing professional football. You have an opportunity, regardless of how things shake themselves out.?
Last week’s starter, Max Hall, didn’t practise on Wednesday because of a hand injury but will try to throw on Thursday. Buck Pierce has been ruled out of Sunday’s game with an upper-body injury the team won’t specify.
“There’s a lot of people who don’t want to talk about it, so I’m not going to,? head coach Tim Burke said. “I’ve been told not to say.?
Pierce’s unavailability means Goltz, Hall and newcomer Jason Boltus will suit up on Sunday at Mosaic Stadium. In other words, a trio that has three fewer career CFL starts (four) than the Riders have victories this season (seven) will attempt to end Winnipeg’s six-game losing streak.
“The realistic thing to look at here is probably Justin will start,? Burke said. “We haven’t told anybody that. Nobody’s been promised anything. If Max comes back (Thursday) and has a good day then that could change.?
Goltz obviously had no inkling he’d back at the top of the quarterback heap so soon after falling from No. 1 to No. 3 shortly after GM Joe Mack got fired on Aug. 9. Hall became the starter, with Pierce moving from No. 3 to No. 2, and Goltz said a few days later he was never told why the switch was made.
“You can ask around and nobody really gives you a straight answer,? Goltz told reporters on Aug. 12. “I haven’t necessarily taken the context clues and figured it out for myself yet. But I definitely feel betrayed at this point.?
The “betrayed? comment took on a life of its own over the next couple of days, considering Goltz had started just two games — and lost both — when he was demoted.
“I used one word that kind of got blown out proportion. Unfortunately that happens with the media sometimes,? Goltz said Wednesday. “Obviously I wasn’t pleased with how things shook out. The outside environment and the outside world had been told some things that obviously changed real quickly.
“But that happens. I have to be mature enough to realize that that happens when you change your GM and your CEO. The game plan switches, too. I had to grow up a little bit and realize that.?
Goltz has completed 57% of his passes this season and has tossed two touchdowns against three interceptions. He has been slow to make reads and hasn’t thrown the ball deep much, which those in the know attribute to his NCAA Division III background. Goltz, however, feels two weeks as the starter and then two weeks to sit back and watch again have aided in his growth.
“Any time you can step on the field, especially given the circumstances that are going on now, there’s been a lot of change in the last couple of weeks and it kind of makes you open your eyes a little bit and realize what you have being here,? he said. “So just the opportunity to step on the field again would be a pleasure.?
Pierce’s injured status means his $110,000 contract will be guaranteed for the rest of the season.