Alive 'n' kicking!

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:35 AM ET

The irony is that the guy to whom Danny Maciocia gave the hook yesterday is the guy he chose to get him off the hook.

With six games to go, for better or wide left, Sean Fleming has been given the go as the Edmonton Eskimos' solo toe.

It was six of one or half a dozen of the other going into the final third of the schedule. It may also have been damned if he did or damned if he didn't.

But Maciocia found out he was double-damned by Hayden Epstein's birth certificate when he didn't make three of five field goals in a one-point loss to the Saskatchewan Roughriders. So it's 'Fleming Or Bust' for the rest of the way as kicker and punter.

OK. There's no guarantee involved here. Epstein is staying around town. But that's the plan. That's the idea. That's the intent.

"My thought is that it's me for the rest of the year," said Fleming.

"I don't like saying the rest of the season. The idea is that I'd like to have him the rest of the way," said Maciocia.

"My thought is that if I make all my field goals, there won't be a worry about that," said the kicker, who has had to endure the humiliation of being benched first from kicking field goals and then from punting. Fleming is like a field goal. He's down. He's up. The question is if he'll be good when it matters most.

Maciocia, who says he'd do it all again, probably won't. His experiment to try an import at the position went horribly wrong Sunday in Saskatchewan. When the injuries come, you can't have an import sitting at home. It's been a given for coaches in this league for years.

MESSED-UP MIND

Sunday, when one starter went down in the warm-up and two more early in the game, Maciocia was burned by his spurn of the 14-year veteran. Epstein went two-for-five and had the would-be game-winning field goal blocked due to a hitch in his giddy-up.

The question today is if the head coach did more to mess up the already messed-up mind of Fleming? Did he do more to hurt his confidence than help? "I'd have preferred to work my way through," said Fleming of his troubles putting the ball through the uprights.

"Danny decided to try to take the pressure off me. Danny is a straight shooter. What Danny told me turned out to be true. I don't hold any grudges about what happened."

But, in the end, didn't Maciocia add more pressure on him coming back than he had before he left? "There are two different thoughts about that," said Fleming.

CURIOUS BLIP

Now we find out. If they're down, up and good, the case of Fleming's yips will be just a curious blip on a career which still has a chance to put the 14-year veteran of 225 CFL games on the Eskimos' Wall of Fame.

But this isn't going to be any easier for Fleming than when the crowd was booing his 11-for-19 season.

"Whether he's booed at home or abused on the road, he's going to have to kick it," said Maciocia.

"It's on me now. I'm telling him 'Don't worry about it. Go kick the ball.' Sean understands what I did. Hayden understands the scenario. He knew he was brought in to give Sean a break."

While Fleming had all that time on his hands he looked some stuff up to try to get his confidence back. "Last year I led the league in field goal percentage. In five of the last seven years I've been either first or second in field goal percentage. I've kicked 11 of 13 game winners.

"I'm looking at it as starting a new season.

"It's nice to be back. The support around the community these last four or five weeks has been great. It hasn't changed how I feel about the Eskimos or about Edmonton. I love playing in Edmonton. Why would you want to play anywhere else? There's a passion here. If things don't go well, you hear about it."

If nothing else, Danny Maciocia has made him a compelling subplot in the continuing drama of 'How The Eskimos Turn.'

The real kick here is that Fleming could conceivably break Dave Cutler's all-time Eskimo points record of 2,237 Saturday night. He needs 22 points.


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