Fleming wants his job back

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:13 AM ET

Sean Fleming isn't slinging mud at Danny Maciocia.

He's not complaining or crying.

Instead, the 2004 CFL western all-star punter/kicker is cruising on the high road, even though he will be a healthy scratch tomorrow night for the second straight game when the Eskimos host the Calgary Stampeders.

"To be honest, I'm not ticked off," said the 14-year Eskimo veteran, who lost his kicking job after the Aug. 20 game against Toronto and his punting duties after Montreal's visit Aug. 26.

"This is how the roster shakes out. It's not because of (my punting) performance; it's a ratio issue."

By scratching Fleming for tomorrow's tilt and using rookie Hayden Epstein for punting and kicking chores, Maciocia can use an extra Canadian player at a different position.

BEST YEAR PUNTING

"I've done everything (the Eskimos) have asked me to do," said Fleming. "In fact, I've exceeded what they've asked (of me) on the punt team. This is probably my best year punting ... and with me out there punting, it gives us the best opportunity to win. I think there are certain things I can do that Hayden can't - and that's not a (slap) on him."

Maciocia agrees with Fleming. "Sean seems to be the better punter," said the head coach, as he walked off the practice field yesterday.

Indeed, the numbers - which are just part of the punting game - are in Fleming's favour. The 35-year-old Burnaby, B.C., native has a 41-yard average on 64 punts this season. Epstein has a 40.6 average from 10 punts on Labour Day, his first game handling both chores. But the rookie's field-goal numbers are perfect. The 24-year-old California product has yet to miss on five field goal attempts, including three last Monday. Fleming had a 58% success rate before being pulled from that job in mid-August.

"The kicking game is huge," said Maciocia. "Take those three field goals away (from Monday's 25-23 win) and you know the outcome."

However, Maciocia hasn't given up on Fleming, a four-time CFL western all-star. "He's clearly, clearly, clearly not finished," said the head coach. "Physically, he has all the tools to be a premier kicker. There is only one thing Sean needs to do ... he has got to regain that confidence. There is only one way to do that: come to work ... line up and kick field goals and punt."

And bring the right attitude.

BARGE INTO MY OFFICE

"You really have to approach it with an attitude and take everybody on, saying I'm going to show people I can do this. And maybe there will be a day when he will barge into my office when the door is shut and he looks at me straight in the eye and he'll tell me: You need me on this football team, kicking field goals and punting.

"When that happens, we'll address it."

The fire to kick field goals still burns within Fleming, but he's being realistic. "I'm hopeful I will (kick field goals this year) but for that to happen Hayden is going to have to wet the bed," stated Fleming.

"But I don't want that to happen. In the best interests of the team, I hope he goes 100% (with his field goals)."


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