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The good news — or bad, depending on how you interpret it — was the injury couldn’t get any worse. Unlike other positions, a quarterback needs to feel all of the fingers on his throwing hand to get a proper grip on the ball.So as long as Nichols could withstand the pain, he could play. That meant Nichols wouldn’t have the luxury of freezing the finger and it would take some time before he felt comfortable with the pain.

In fact, they knew a lot more about what was going on with him than those living outside the locker room.

The media — and the fans who rely on their reports — knew little more than what could be seen on television replays.

Nichols can’t remember the exact moment during the Oct.

6 home game against Hamilton when his finger was broken, though he has a rough idea.

Most likely, though, it was from a second crushing blow Nichols suffered two drives later, this time from Justin Capicciotti, another Tiger-Cats defensive end.

Capicciotti had broken free from the corner and with one swift chop of his arm he "tomahawked the ball away from me and just hit right on that spot again.""It was definitely messed up before but that second hit just completely blew my finger up," Nichols said.

But that was before he suffered a broken finger, which preceded a second-degree strain of his left calf — both of which derailed whatever chance he might have had to top Reilly down the stretch.

What bothered Nichols most about his bad luck wasn’t that he had to leave minutes into a Week 19 loss to the B. Lions or that he was forced to watch from the sidelines as the Bombers defeated the Stampeders in Calgary the following week in the regular-season finale.

But as a professional courtesy to their respective teams, the upcoming match was hardly discussed; they'd meet in person just 48 hours later at Investors Group Field in the West Division semifinal; Reilly & Co. By then, Reilly had already been named the West nominee."He’s a competitor, so he was a little bit disappointed that I couldn’t completely be healthy to finish the season out because to win an award like that you want to go against the best that year," Nichols said in a recent interview with the .

For Nichols, the frustration went much deeper than personal accolades. With a month remaining in the regular season, he led the league in passing touchdowns, had the highest quarterback rating and had thrown the fewest interceptions.

Still, Nichols stayed in the game, completing five of his next seven passes.

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