The big driver

GERRY PRINCE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:57 AM ET

There was a time when Sean Fleming loved to drag out the big driver.

Now the veteran Edmonton Eskimos kicker is content to use smaller wood when it comes to teeing it up for field goals.

"It's nice to bring the big driver out and try to hit the long one," said Fleming, whose streak of 14 consecutive field goals came to a grinding halt in Montreal with a miss and a 125-yard return for a touchdown by Ezra Landry.

"Back in the old days, that's all you wanted. I'm past that point where I have to show off my leg strength to anybody. If I have to kick a 58-yarder, I've got the leg strength to do it.

Under former head coach Tom Higgins, Fleming seldom got a chance to drive for show.

Higgins's ultra-conservative approach to the kicking game frequently left Fleming putting for dough. Clearly, Higgins was about field position.

But the fact Higgins seldom sent Fleming out to attempt a 40-plus yarder fuelled the public perception the 35-year-old had lost it. Fleming begs to differ.

"It's like what we do on kickoffs, we do a few pooch kicks here and there or I'll line drive it away from returners," said Fleming, who connected on a 57-yarder during the pre-game warm-up in Montreal last Friday.

"That doesn't mean I don't have the leg strength to do it, to kick it down to the 10-yard line. I think I still have one of the stronger legs in the league to kick the ball long if you need it."

PHILOSOPHY VARIES

Although rookie Esks head coach Danny Maciocia values field position, his philosophy when it comes to kicking field goals varies slightly from the previous administration.

He had no qualms about sending Fleming out for a 48-yard attempt against Winnipeg during Week 2 or the failed 50-yarder Landry took the other way.

"You don't take your cleanup hitter out of the lineup when he's hot, you just let him line up and take a swing," said Maciocia.

"That's exactly what we did with Sean. The fact of the matter is we're not going to play scared. We trust that Sean Fleming is going to make the field goal.

"We also trust if Sean Fleming misses it, we're going to go down there and cover it. Sean Fleming will not make every field goal attempt the rest of the season. He's going to miss another one."

RETURN COVERAGE

In an effort to prevent a repeat of Landry's missed field goal return as well as his punt return for a TD, the Esks addressed their return coverage at practice this week.

With the always-dangerous Keith Stokes and Wane McGarity handling the return duties for Winnipeg at Commonwealth Stadium tomorrow night and the number of returns for touchdowns seemingly on the increase, Maciocia views the extra work as time well spent.

"I think there were eight missed field goal, punt and kickoff for touchdowns last week, if I'm not mistaken," said the Green and Gold head coach.

"There's quality returners in this league.

"In the next three weeks we've got Keith Stokes, (Ottawa's) Jason Armstead and (Hamilton's) Craig Yeast.

"We're going to have our hands full.

"It's an element of the game that is huge and you have to spend a lot of time on."

While Maciocia's philosophy may differ from Higgins, Fleming says it's too early to tell if that difference is significant.

"If you start seeing me kick 50-plus yarders a lot during the season, we'll know there's been a change of philosophy."

LATE HITS: Defensive lineman Clinton Wayne (neck) and running back Mike Bradley (knee) come off the roster this week. After sitting the first three weeks, defensive tackle Randy Spencer draws in for Wayne. Receiver Andrew Nowacki, meanwhile, takes Bradley's spot on the 40-man.


Videos

Photos