WINNIPEG - Alex Brink is starting his third season with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers as their No. 2 quarterback in training camp.
Last season he was third on the chart behind Joey Elliott but moved up when a torn ACL in July ended Elliott's season.
Elliott is in camp at No. 3 this season, ahead of Justin Goltz, and still wearing a knee brace after reconstructive surgery.
In his two starts last season, Brink threw for 528 yards and two touchdowns. He finished the season throwing 89 completions on 140 attempts in eight games for 1,023 yards and five touchdowns against four interceptions.
He was also Winnipeg’s quarterback in short-yardage situations, adding another six touchdowns on the ground and threw Winnipeg’s only passing touchdown in the East Final.
"I feel I've made a lot of strides in my two years in the league. I definitely learned a lot last year," he said after practice this week.
"There's still going to be a lot more growth, though, and I really want this camp to be a time when I put a good foot forward and learn a lot from Buck and the guys around me and, obviously, (offensive) coach (Gary) Crowton."
At six-foot-three and 222 pounds, the 27-year-old Brink has a shot at being the future of the Bombers when Pierce is done.
That may not be for a little while yet. But this is Pierce's eighth season in the CFL, his third with the Bombers and he'll turn 31 a few weeks before this year's Grey Cup.
Pierce, who has legs and likes to use them, has been knocked out of action more than a little during his career. Last season's 16 starts were a career high and so were the 324 rushing yards he accumulated.
Arm strength might have kept Brink out of the NFL but that's the same criticism that has dogged Pierce. And from what coach Paul LaPolice says, Brink is starting to grow into a more capable field general.
"Alex mentally last year could always talk about it in meeting rooms and the classroom," said the coach after a recent practice.
"This year I think he's processing it much faster. He hit two deep balls today beautifully. He said `I saw the halfback inside coach and I knew I had it so I took it.'
"I think the game's slowed down for him (with) the opportunities to play last year. . . When you're in the business of developing quarterbacks, you've got to develop them. You can't just say,`Oh, he's not good enough' after one game."
LaPolice likes what he sees in all four of his quarterbacks in camp. The 6-5 Goltz, at 24 the youngest of the three, is also back for a third season. He was released after training camp in 2011 but came back to sit No. 3 on the chart after Elliott's injury.
There is also a new face guiding the offence and this time not just in name only. Last season LaPolice called the plays but says he's ready to hand that job to Crowton if he wants it.
There have been concerns that Crowton's style might not fit with the CFL, but Brink doesn't think that's the case. Most of Crowton's coaching has been done at NCAA universities, the last was Maryland, although he was offensive co-ordinator for the Chicago Bears in 1999-2000.
"Coach Crowton's done a good job of coming in and installing some of the things he was very successful with down in the States, also marrying that with what we've done in the past that we've been good at. I think it's a nice combination," said Brink.
"As a position coach, he does a lot of good things for us. He really works hard on the drill work type of things. When it comes to film work and studying, he really stays on us which is very important in this league."
The offence is all on the same page about what needs to happen if they want more success in 2012 — which means not only getting to the Grey Cup like last year but bringing it home as well.
It isn't exactly brain surgery and starts with consistency on first downs and avoiding second and long situations and ends with getting the ball over the line when they get the chance.
"We talk a lot about making sure our percentage of scoring is up from last year," says Brink.
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