Just the fact that he's heading into his second season in the Canadian Football League has Joey Elliott feeling more confident as a professional quarterback.
For one thing, he's had time to make the adjustment to the CFL's longer and wider fields (110 yards by 65 yards), having 12 players break from the huddle instead of 11, a 20-second play clock and the fact there is no fourth down to be utilized in a pinch.
He's also more accustomed to life in Winnipeg, Manitoba -- a not-so-leisurely 19-hour drive from Evansville, Ind. -- and definitely at ease suiting up for the Blue Bombers.
"Just knowing my teammates is big," said Elliott, the former Purdue University player. "We have a lot of guys back because they kept nearly everybody on the team. It makes you feel a whole lot more comfortable when you step into the huddle with guys who have been there with you before. That's helped me out a lot."
Plus, unlike last season when the Blue Bombers didn't sign him until late July after he was released by the Philadelphia Eagles, Elliott has gone through all of the preseason workouts.
It's not often a pro team has a quarterback on its roster who has started regular-season games but has never played in an exhibition game. But that's the case with Elliott, who will get his first taste of CFL preseason action on Thursday night when Winnipeg hits the road to play the defending Grey Cup champion Montreal Alouettes. They'll play just one more preseason game before kicking off the 2011 season on July 1.
Elliott is No. 2 on the depth chart behind six-year veteran Buck Pierce, a former New Mexico State player who is coming back from elbow surgery.
The Blue Bombers actually had three quarterbacks go down with injuries last season before Elliott was given his CFL baptism as a starter by head coach Paul La Police and offensive coordinator Jamie Barresi in the final two weeks. While the Blue Bombers lost both games by three points, including a 16-13 overtime thriller to the Edmonton Eskimos, his inexperience wasn't a factor. In the finale against the Calgary Stampeders, who won the West Division, Elliott passed for 241 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
In two-plus games of action, he completed 35 of 73 passes for 435 yards and two touchdowns with three interceptions.
"Playing those last two games were really good for me because whenever you are sitting on the fence as a quarterback, you don't know if you are going to come back the next year," said the 6-foot-2 Elliott. "For me to be able to prove myself in those last two games and those practices proved to them that I can process the information throughout the week and perform on game day. Taking all the reps and going through the daily schedule of a (starting) quarterback gave me more confidence."
Elliott should be confident. If not for the lockout in the National Football League, he may have even received another chance to impress the Miami Dolphins, who had worked him out before the 2010 draft after his only season as a starter at Purdue in 2009.
"I was supposed to fly back down to Miami for another workout or two, but then the lockout happened," said Elliott. "They liked me coming out of college, but their depth chart didn't have a spot for me. They thought maybe this year something could be worked out."
The fact that Elliott only had a month after the season ended to recommit to the Blue Bombers didn't help. Maybe next year.
"I'm glad to be back in the CFL," said Elliott, who spent part of the offseason in Houston working out with personal trainer Ben Fairchild. "Right now with the NFL lockout, there are a lot of guys coming up here. I'll use this year to get better and then we'll see what happens from there.
"You've got to go where you're liked. Drew Brees taught me that," said Elliott. "If they like you, you've got to go there because they'll give you an opportunity and a fair shake."