Leader of the pack

'Boy, that would be nice. I've never believed in bonuses. That's not in my contract. I don't need...

'Boy, that would be nice. I've never believed in bonuses. That's not in my contract. I don't need the added pressure of having bonuses and stuff like that.' - Sean Fleming on the fact that there are no bonuses in his contract for claiming a CFL scoring title. (Edmonton Sun/Darryl Dyck)

GERRY PRINCE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 12:38 PM ET

Looks like it's going to be a bad week for the superstitious.

The 2004 Boston Red Sox laid the Curse of the Bambino to rest with a sweep in the World Series.

Now, Edmonton Eskimos kicker Sean Fleming is on the verge of proving the number 13 is anything but unlucky.

Barring superhuman efforts by fellow hoofers Duncan O'Mahony, Paul McCallum or Matt Kellett, the 34-year-old Fleming will wrap up his first CFL scoring title.

"I've been close," said Fleming, Edmonton's first pick in the 1992 Canadian college draft. "I've had 204 points and 207 points but there's always been somebody else.

"I mean it's not really a huge honour. Well, maybe it is. It's hard to say. The scoring race is different. I could hit 50 out of 100 field goals in one year and lead the scoring race. I'm 50 per cent and it's not a good season.

"Really, to lead the scoring you attempt some field goals. But you score a lot of touchdowns and there's some converts in there, too. A successful season for me is being at the top of field goal percentage and making the kicks."

Fleming added to his lead in the scoring race by going 4-for-4 in the Esks' win over Winnipeg last Sunday. That allowed Edmonton's nominee for this year's outstanding Canadian award to finish 37-for-47 on the season and gave him a league-best field goal percentage of 78.7.

"It'd be great if it does happen but there's other areas that I look at to indicate a good season," he said. "There's been years when I've led the league in field goal percentage and had better seasons than I've had this year. But this year was pretty solid."

On top of four field goals Fleming hit on four converts and pushed his point total to 180. That's 18 more than O'Mahony, 20 better than McCallum and 22 ahead of Kellett.

All three have one last shot at passing Fleming on the final weekend of the CFL season.

"That would be nice for him," offered quarterback Jason Maas, Fleming's holder on three-point and point-after attempts. "He's had a a very good year doing a lot of different things for us.

"To me, he's the best kicker in the league. He does everything very well and he's been outstanding again this year."

In a perfect world, the Burnaby-born kicker would have laid claim to the scoring crown in 2001. Instead, he tied with Paul Osbaldiston after missing a game with torn knee ligaments.

When you split the uprights 80 per cent of the time, which is what Fleming has done the past four seasons, there's a better than even chance sitting out cost him the scoring title in '01.

Although Fleming has played on some pretty potent Edmonton clubs, two kicks at an NFL career, coupled with the manner in which the team utilizes his talents, may also have cost him a shot at other scoring titles.

"He understands our philosophy of field position over points," smiled head coach Tom Higgins.

"I've asked him to kick the ball out of bounds when other people might try longer field goals. He has the leg to kick longer field goals but he's been very unselfish this past number of years.

"Whatever it takes, he'll line up and do. He should be rewarded with the scoring title and whatever accolades come with it."

There's nothing like the NHL's Art Ross trophy to put on the mantel. And in Fleming's case there's no bonus clause in his contract for winning the CFL scoring race.

Although given he's never won it outright, that might have been something the Esks could have added to Fleming's contracts over the past decade to sweeten the pot a little.

"Boy, that would be nice," Fleming grinned.

"I've never believed in bonuses. That's not in my contract. I don't need the added pressure of having bonuses and stuff like that."

RUMOUR MILLS

Veteran running back Troy Mills's fate is in the hands of the Esks coaching staff.

Because of its potential impact on the 40-man roster, any decision to bring the 38-year-old Mills back for the post-season will be made jointly by the Green and Gold brain trust.

"I don't want receivers getting excited about who might or might not be on the roster if we were to bring Troy back," Higgins said. "That's why I want it to be a decision by the entire staff."

Mills, who suffered a season-ending leg injury during the team's first pre-season contest, is sitting at home in California waiting to hear from Higgins.

"You'll probably hear before I do," said Mills when reached at his off-season home in Sacramento yesterday.

Evidently, the Esks won't keep Mills in suspense much longer. Higgins expects to make a decision on the versatile back today or tomorrow.

LATE HITS ...

After meeting with Higgins yesterday, import defensive lineman Dorian Boose was told to clean out his locker. Boose, 30, appeared in 16 regular-season games as well as the Grey Cup last season, but saw limited playing time this year. The six-foot-five, 292-pound Boose could be back with the club next season, although that appears unlikely at this point.


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