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By Daniel Fung, TSN Contributor - Archive - Email
Ready or not, Bombers should rest concussed Pierce
Vancouver, BC (Sports Network) - The Winnipeg Blue Bombers have made their fair share of questionable decisions in what has been a disastrous season to date, but there's one choice they can make this week in advance of their next outing versus the Montreal Alouettes that would not be disputed in the very least: sitting Buck Pierce.

Whether the benching lasts for just Monday's contest against the Alouettes or is an indefinite one, it's something that seems appropriate given the Bombers quarterback's latest health scare.

The soon-to-be 32-year-old Pierce, who has had to deal with a myriad of injuries since breaking into the CFL in 2005 with the BC Lions, was knocked out of yet another game this past Saturday after taking a helmet-to-helmet hit from Toronto Argonauts linebacker Brandon Isaac in the first quarter of the Blue Bombers' 29-10 loss at Canad Inns Stadium.

Pierce returned to the game briefly following the hit but eventually left for good in the second quarter after complaining of headaches.

Nobody doubts the Blue Bombers will do their due diligence and take the steps necessary to ensure that Pierce is sufficiently healthy if he is to take to the field on Monday in Montreal, but at some point one has to wonder if being "medically cleared" is satisfactory for someone with Pierce's history of head injuries.

While we're not suggesting Pierce will be anything but forthcoming to Bombers team officials and medical personnel about his condition leading up to Monday's game, it's not a stretch to suggest his desire to play may cloud his judgment.

We've already seen signs of that in the past few days with Pierce suggesting that his past history of head injuries in the CFL has been exaggerated - an assertion that has been supported by his head coach, Tim Burke.

Pierce has stated that he has only previously been officially diagnosed with one concussion since becoming a CFLer - it came back during the 2009 season when he was with the BC Lions - but he has been forced to leave several games throughout his CFL career as a result of blows to the head and his assertion of having just one prior concussion seems to contradict statements made previously by members of the Lions' training staff throughout the years.

The Bombers admitted on Tuesday that Pierce has, in fact, suffered a mild concussion after this latest incident, but he could be in the lineup on Monday.

Instead of trying rush Pierce back for what will most likely turn out to be an ill-fated push for a playoff berth, the Bombers, who are currently in last place in the CFL standings with a 3-10 record, have an opportunity to truly demonstrate not only the CFL's commitment to concussion awareness by following the protocol exactly as it is laid out but also their own dedication to player safety by keeping Pierce on the sidelines even if it is just for one extra outing in order to give him more time to fully bounce back from his latest injury setback.

For the record, the CFL's own concussion guidelines states that an athlete must be entirely asymptomatic for at least one full entire week before being allowed to return to game play. As of this past Monday, Pierce reportedly still had headaches stemming from the hit.

The sports world, even in light of all the new studies and stories that have come out about the damaging and lost-lasting effects of head injuries, have seen far too many athletes try to push the issue and return to play before they are ready.

Some, like hockey star Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins, can be considered lucky that a premature return to action hasn't cost a career or caused long-term deterioration to quality of life.

Crosby, who was on the receiving end of a headshot from then-Washington Capitals forward David Steckel at the 2011 NHL Winter Classic, played in a game four days after that incident and was injured again on a seemingly innocuous hit by Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman. That ultimately forced Crosby to the sidelines for the better part of the next 15 months as he struggled with post-concussion syndrome.

There are plenty of others, including the thousands of former NFL players who are currently suing the league for their mismanagement of concussions, who aren't so lucky.

We can only hope Pierce won't be forced into a situation in which he has to rely on luck to determine whether he can continue on to have a long CFL career or become just another statistic in a future study.

The Bombers ought to be doing everything in their power to avoid such a scenario and that starts with giving Pierce the night off on Monday.