It was one of those moments where CFL fans have grown accustomed to seeing the brilliance of Bo Levi Mitchell. Up six with 3:30 left in the fourth quarter, it was time for the Calgary Stampeders to put away the victory in classic fashion.
Then out onto the field trotted backup Jake Maier.
In a year of disappointments for the two-time MOP, ceding the reins in such a pivotal moment still came as a tremendous shock to observers. For the star quarterback himself, it was a decision he had to make after a hit to his previously injured shoulder left Mitchell questioning his own ability to deliver what the team needed.
“It’s something I’ve been avoiding talking about with you guys. It’s definitely something that’s been sore, been bothering me,” Mitchell told the assembled Calgary media after the game.
“I just took a hit on it and I just didn’t feel like I had the pop. I could still throw on the sideline, but I knew that in that game, if it came down to it, I just didn’t want to be selfish in that moment and let a ball sail or something by not having that pop that I thought I needed.”
Maier was 0-for-1 on the drive, but a long Ka’deem Carey run produced a crucial field goal that allowed the Stamps to stave off a furious Riders comeback for a 23-17 victory. For Mitchell, it was the right outcome despite being the latest chapter in a frustrating 2021 season.
After struggling through groin soreness in training camp, Mitchell suffered what turned out to be a fractured fibula on a late hit from former teammate Charleston Hughes during Calgary’s Week 1 loss to the Toronto Argonauts. He finished that game, threw a single-game career-high four interceptions while losing to the B.C. Lions in Week 2 and was immediately placed on the six-game injured list.
Mitchell only missed three games with the injury, but his rushed return led to him being pulled in an embarrassing loss to the Ticats in Week 7. Saturday’s performance against Saskatchewan was respectable, as he completed 16-of-25 passes for 184 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, but an old foe made an unwelcome return.
Back in 2019, Mitchell suffered a labral tear in his throwing shoulder which caused him to miss a start for the first time since 2014. It visibly hampered the quarterback all-season, holding him to 11 games and resulting in off-season surgery, but the lasting effects are still being felt in Cowtown.
“I’m just tired of talking about it, man. It’s something I’ve been dealing with over the last two, three years now. We got surgery to face it and then it hasn’t responded exactly the way I’d love it too or had that pop,” a frustrated Mitchell admitted.
“I just feel like I’m flinging the ball and took a bad hit while I was driving forward with Micah there on the edge and just felt that kind of twinge. I don’t think it’s anything super serious. I’ll be fine, I’ll be good, and the emotions are good because we won a game. This would have been a lot different interview if we lost that game, boys.”
How the injury effects the embattled star going forward remains to be seen, but don’t expect the nagging shoulder to keep Mitchell off the field. With the Stamps in a heated playoff race, he’ll be leading the charge as long as he gives his team the best chance to win.
“I’ll just take the Michael Reilly route,” Mitchell laughed. “Have some doctors put some special sauce on it before the game.”