The Winnipeg Blue Bombers are staying tight-lipped regarding the health of starting quarterback Zach Collaros, but teammates appear unconcerned with the status of his injured ankle ahead of the 109th Grey Cup.
“Let’s put it this way, I think Russell Wilson would be jealous of the workout I saw on that plane,” receiver Greg Ellingson told reporters minutes after touching down on the tarmac in Regina, referencing the Denver Broncos quarterback’s infamous lunges on his recent flight to an NFL game in London.
“High knees, karaokes… I’m just kidding. He got on the plane, I saw him walking around, he seems fine to me.”
The Bombers advanced to their third consecutive championship game with a 28-20 victory over the B.C. Lions on Sunday but Collaros was unable to finish the contest after suffering an apparent ankle injury late in the fourth. Winnipeg’s training staff taped the joint in an attempt to get the quarterback back on the field but he was subdued by a heavy limp while making his way out on the field for the team’s final series and was forced to return to the sidelines.
Addressing the media post-game, Collaros indicated that he fully intended to play in the Grey Cup and did not foresee the injury being a problem. However, Winnipeg will not begin practice until Wednesday and the degree of limitation he will experience is not yet known.
Asked if he could imagine a circumstance in which Collaros would be unable to play, linebacker Adam Bighill was frank.
“Every year, there’s guys on the roster that they get hurt bad enough, they can’t play. Physically, they are injured, they’re not hurt. You can foreseeably, for every single player on this team, see a situation where they’re not playing. There is no chance that they can play because they’re injured,” he said.
“Now being hurt is a totally different story. There’s a lot of guys throughout our entire locker room that are hurt all year long and play. Some guys handle it better than others, some guys can take it to another level and Zach’s obviously, I think, a guy that would fit in that category for sure.”
The man responsible for hunting Collaros down on Sunday, Toronto Argonauts’ defensive end Ja’Gared Davis, shares those sentiments. There is no doubt in his mind that the Bombers’ face of the franchise will be under centre for the game’s first snap, unrestricted and as dangerous as ever.
“Zach is a warrior. Regardless of how he may or may not feel, great players find a way to get the job done in the most crucial moments,” Davis stressed. “I expect Zach to be Zach, to be honest with you. I don’t expect Zach to be nothing less than the man he’s always been.”
The 34-year-old quarterback is expected to claim his second Most Outstanding Player award this week, after completing 70 percent of his passes for 4,183 yards, 37 touchdowns and just 13 interceptions in 2022. After leading Winnipeg to consecutive titles amidst a career revival, the two-time CFL all-star will not be taken for granted by Toronto.
“His career, his legacy, the person he’s been on and off the field is what made him great, what’s given him and his team so many opportunities to be back-to-back Grey Cup champions and what gave them the opportunity to be here today for this week and this upcoming game,” Davis raved.
“Everybody at this time of year has some kind of nicks, nacks, bruises that they’re dealing with. He’s just human.”
The reverence of his opponents won’t slow down the conversation around Collaros’ health until he takes the field unhindered. How the quarterback is actually feeling is a secret held tight to the vest of Bombers’ head coach Mike O’Shea, who offered only a wry grin when asked if he would reveal if the injury was actually concerning.
“Probably not,” he said, before reporters suggested he wouldn’t answer honestly if Collaros was healthy either.