Yard title in reach for Dales

IAN BUSBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:21 AM ET

Burke Dales has completely punted the memories of a rough 2007.

With one game remaining this season, today against the B.C. Lions (3 p.m., McMahon Stadium), the Calgary Stampeders punter has a chance to clinch the net yardage title.

It's a long way from where he was this time a year ago, when Dales was on and off the roster in favour of Duncan O'Mahony.

"I look forward to games now," said the fourth-year Stampeder. "I like where I am, but I'm excited about where our punt squad is at, too."

Dales has always been solid when it comes to length, but this year the team has focused on hang time to allow a great group of tacklers to get downfield.

That bunch is led by Brandon Browner and Jon Cornish, but the likes of Marc Calixte, Justin Phillips, Dwaine Carpenter and long-snapper Randy Chevrier all contribute with great downfield coverage.

The result is Dales has a net average of 38.2 yards per punt, just ahead of Hamilton's Nick Setta (38.1) and Montreal's Damon Duval (38.0).

Dales said the season got off to a good start when he was the only punter to arrive in training camp.

His job was uncontested, unlike last year, and that allowed him to focus and not worry about being cut.

"The coaches instilled confidence in me from Day 1," Dales said. "There were a lot of people who said I got off to a rocky start this season. In my mind, I was looking to improve week by week. I've felt that I've done that."

The Stamps have a challenge this week in covering Lions returner Ian Smart.

But the only approach Dales takes is to put the ball up and let his cover guys get Smart.

"I've been hanging the ball as high as I can so they can get down there," Dales said. "If you talk amongst coaches in the CFL, what they are looking for is net punting, not distance."


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