Epstein punted by Esks

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 7:28 AM ET

HAMILTON -- The Hayden Epstein experiment is over.

The much talked about import kicker is driving home to San Diego today after being released by the Edmonton Eskimos yesterday afternoon.

The move means 14-year veteran Sean Fleming has officially won the highly publicized battle for the kicking / punting duties.

"It's our way of showing confidence in Sean," said Edmonton head coach Danny Maciocia, who had been juggling two kickers and the import / non-import ratio in Eskimo camp for almost six weeks.

The move definitely caught Epstein off guard.

"I was surprised," said the 24-year-old American, who admitted to being frustrated but also looking forward to new opportunities as he drove toward the Montana/Alberta border late yesterday afternoon.

SIGNED IN AUGUST

After spending time with three NFL organizations - Jacksonville, Minnesota and Denver - the Eskimos signed Epstein on Aug. 16 and placed him on the roster 10 days later against the Montreal Alouettes after watching Fleming's field-goal average drop to 57%.

Epstein was perfect in his first game, hitting both field goal attempts in a 36-26 Edmonton win at Commonwealth Stadium.

The following week, Fleming also lost his punting chores and became a healthy scratch for back-to-back games against Calgary.

During that stretch, his replacement matched his 41-yard punting average and missed just one field-goal attempt.

However, Fleming returned to punt against Saskatchewan in mid-September at blustery Taylor Field in Regina.

After dropping a perfect snap on his first punt attempt in the first quarter, the former CFL all-star watched the Riders block a punt in the second half, leading to good field position and a key Saskatchewan field goal.

BAD DAY

However, Epstein had a worse afternoon. The University of Michigan product missed two field goals from inside the 40-yard line.

Then he had his game-winning attempt blocked by Omarr Morgan with 10 seconds remaining, which secured the Riders' 37-36 win.

It was officially Epstein's final play in an Eskimo uniform. He was scratched last week, giving Fleming both duties, and then cut yesterday.

"I thought giving Sean a mental break would do him some good," said Maciocia, recalling his initial decision to put Epstein on the roster last month.

Fleming proved his coach correct last Saturday against the B.C. Lions connecting on two of three field-goal attempts.

"From a confidence perspective, it's good for Sean to know that he's our guy now," continued Maciocia. "You gotta believe in your people."

FINISH LINES: Epstein's brief four-game stay in the CFL will go into the record books as 8-12 in field-goal attempts and 16 punts for a 41.0-yard average.


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