Alouettes RB Sutton has lost count of starting quarterbacks for Montreal

Receiver B.J. Cunningham has seen quarterbacks come and go in his four seasons with the Montreal Alouettes, so Antonio Pipkin will be just one more on the list.

“You’ve got to be a pro,” he said Thursday. “Go out, run my route right and, when the ball is in the air, try to come down with it.

“That’s been my job as long as I’ve been a receiver. It don’t matter who’s throwing me the ball.”

It was supposed to be Johnny Manziel throwing the passes for a third straight game when the Alouettes (1-7) visit Edmonton (5-3) on Saturday, but the former Cleveland Browns’ bid to rebuild a shattered career in the CFL was put on hold when he was placed under concussion protocol this week.

Pipkin will be the Alouettes’ fifth starter, and sixth quarterback overall, in nine games.

“To me it’s all about enjoying the process,” said Pipkin. “You go out there, you have fun, you throw the ball. It’s what you’ve been doing all your life. You cut it loose.”

Manziel described his condition as a “delayed onset concussion” on a podcast on Thursday and said he had headaches.

The 25-year-old took a massive hit as he tried to cross the goal-line in the third quarter of a 24-17 loss in Ottawa last Saturday, but was cleared to stay in the game after being checked out by the referee, the league injury spotter and the team’s doctor.

His level of play dropped off noticeably after the hit and there was concern he was concussed, but when he missed practice Tuesday coach Mike Sherman said he had gone for blood tests. The next day, he was placed under concussion protocol, which the team said could be related to medication he uses. He takes lithium to control bipolar disorder.

“As far as him going to get blood work done, that was in relation to his medication,” said Sherman. “The side effects of his medication are very similar to what someone who took a blow to the head could be.

“But he did go to get his medication levels checked on Tuesday.”

Manziel attended team meetings, but didn’t practice this week. He also didn’t speak to the media.

“I walked by him today and I asked how he was feeling and he said OK, but it wasn’t OK good, it was just kind of OK,” said Sherman.

With the plague of injuries, the Alouettes have had this season, that makes Pipkin the starter. Drew Willy, Jeff Mathews and Vernon Adams were already injured, while Matt Shiltz is back but not ready to start.

It is not a scenario former Green Bay Packers coach Sherman foresaw when he signed on for his first CFL coaching job this season.

“I think God’s paying me back for having one quarterback for my entire professional career as a head coach,” he said. “Brett Favre never got hurt.”

Pipkin will be Montreal’s 15th starter since CFL passing record holder Anthony Calvillo retired after the 2013 season, a period that saw them go from East Division powerhouse to doormat.

Cunningham has seen 12 starters since he joined the club in 2015.

He said Pipkin has the advantage of having spent the 2017 campaign in Montreal, seeing action in one game in which he went 2-for-9 for 14 yards, as well as training camp in June. The former Tiffin University star was cut after camp only to be called back on Aug. 6.

“Pip’s strength is the deep balls,” said Cunningham. “He has a beautiful deep ball.

“He got some of that in practice this week. He’s been here two years now so, wideout-wise, we’ve got some chemistry with him. I’m excited to see him out there getting his first start.”

Manziel’s CFL debut was a disaster, with four interceptions in the first half, but there was enough improvement in his second outing against Ottawa to stir optimism that the season may not be a write-off after all. Now they start from zero again with yet another quarterback.

And they will be facing one of the league’s best teams on the road. The Eskimos pounded the Alouettes 44-23 in Montreal (with Adams at quarterback) on July 26.

“Honestly, with a team like us against a team like that, we’ve got nothing to lose,” said Cunningham. “Our backs are already against the wall, so we’ve got to come out swinging and that’s what we’re going to go.”

Running back Tyrell Sutton, a sixth-year Alouette has lost count of the quarterbacks.

“What number we at? OK, I’ll protect the next one,” he said. “It sounds so callous but, next man up.”

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