Kelly says his goodbyes

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON

, Last Updated: 8:00 AM ET

MONTREAL -- Without another game to prepare for this year, Edmonton Eskimos' receivers coach Mike Kelly is now starting to shed some more light on the rumours suggesting he's the overwhelming favourite to be named the new Winnipeg head coach.

Kelly admitted yesterday - about one hour after the Eskimos finished their season with a 36-26 loss to Montreal in the East Division final - that he has not been offered the vacant head coach job in the Manitoba capital.

But he will likely speak to Winnipeg Blue Bombers president and CEO Lyle Bauer rather soon.

"Lyle and I need to talk," said Kelly. "Probably this week and I will let you know then."

Kelly is close friends with Bauer and has never denied he's a candidate for the job that became available after Doug Berry was fired this past week.

An offensive co-ordinator in Winnipeg from 1992-96, that city has a soft spot in Kelly's heart. It's where he lived the longest stretch of his life without moving.

"Lyle and I are old friends. We have talked on a regular basis. I did go to breakfast with him the last time we were in Winnipeg," revealed Kelly.

"And we talked about life and family and all those kind of things. We will see what happens over the next seven to 10 days."

Kelly's words indicate he met with Bauer last weekend before the East Division semifinal. Berry was fired three days after that game.

If Kelly is named the new head coach - and possibly GM - in Winnipeg, he left the Eskimos last night in Montreal with kind words.

"I haven't been offered a contract extension (by the Eskimos). So I guess I am free on the market," he said.

"I certainly have enjoyed this. I have tremendous respect for the Edmonton Eskimos organization and how I was treated.

"I just finished coaching maybe the greatest collective group of guys I have been with."

There is already speculation mounting over what happens if Kelly leaves.

If Jason Tucker doesn't receive doctor clearance to play again after breaking his neck this season, will he be the next Eskimos' receivers coach?

Will offensive line coach Ronnie Vinklarek follow Kelly to Winnipeg?

The pair were together at Valdosta State in 1997.

Those are just two of the speculating questions being whispered around the Eskimos as they prepare to clean out their lockers for the year.

FINISH LINES ...

Offensive lineman Dan Comiskey isn't making any firm statements on whether he is playing next year.

Believing the door is open to play next year, Comiskey admitted he's going through plenty of emotions.

PARTING SHOTS ...

"Every one of those (Esks) receivers was crying after the game," said Kelly.


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