Vernon Adams may be the starting quarterback when the Montreal Alouettes face the Edmonton Eskimos, but he knows he’s only keeping the seat warm for Johnny Football.
Adams, the last Montreal starter to put together back-to-back wins in 2016, will be behind centre when the Alouettes (1-4) face the Eskimos (3-2) on Thursday night at Percival Molson Stadium.
Johnny Manziel, acquired Sunday from Hamilton in a five-player deal to try to end the Alouettes’ five-year search for a permanent quarterback, will dress as the backup. However, it would be shocking if, after all the hype, the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner did not get on the field for at least a few plays.
For now, even coach Mike Sherman isn’t sure if, or when, Manziel will play.
“We’ll play that by ear,” said Sherman. “I don’t want to put him in a situation that is uncomfortable for him, with only two days of preparation.
“But, then again, I want to get him on the field and give him his opportunity. So I’m weighing. He’ll definitely be in uniform on the sideline and whether he crosses over onto the field, we’ll have to wait and see.”
While Mike Reilly has been a rock at quarterback for Edmonton for the last six seasons, the Alouettes have gone through 13 starters since Anthony Calvillo retired after the 2013 campaign.
When Manziel takes over, likely against Hamilton on Aug. 3, he will be the fifth to start a game just this season, following Drew Willy, Jeff Mathews, Matt Shiltz and Adams.
Some of the trouble may have been their own doing. In 2014, Jonathan Crompton became the starter and took a 1-7 team to a 9-9 finish and won a playoff game. But he injured a shoulder in the 2015 opener and never got another chance.
In 2016, Adams started and won the final three games of a 7-11 season. But instead of sticking with him the following season, the Alouettes signed veteran Darian Durant and finished last at 3-15. Adams was traded to Saskatchewan, then moved to Hamilton, where he was cut because the Ticats had Jeremiah Masoli and Manziel, only to be picked up again by Montreal.
“I think anyone would be disappointed to be the last quarterback to win here, and not really getting an opportunity,” said Adams. “But it’s a business.
“It’s what happens up here. They thought that was the right way to go. I had a good time in Saskatchewan and Hamilton, so it’s cool.”
Now, he’ll get another start, but likely only one with Manziel in town.
“I’m just out here to make plays and have fun,” said Adams. “Everybody in the world knows he’s coming here to play.
“We all know that. But I’m not worried about that right now. I’m worried about winning this game. We’re 1-4. We need to win a game.”
Tony Washington, acquired in the Manziel deal, is set to start at left tackle. The offensive line has also changed from week to week and Sherman hopes his front five can stay set and healthy through the rest of the season.
The Eskimos are coming off a bye week after splitting back-to-back games with the Toronto Argonauts. Reports from Edmonton said running back C.J. Gable, who took two nasty hits to the head near the end of a 16-15 win on July 16, should be fit to play.
Coach Jason Maas said he won’t take the Alouettes lightly.
“I don’t worry about their record,” Maas said. “I know they’re capable of playing good football.”