Prefontaine fires back at Esks

GERRY MODDEJONGE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:40 PM ET

Noel Prefontaine took one last kick at the can on his way out of Edmonton.

The 13-year veteran kicker, who was traded by the Eskimos to the Toronto Argonauts this week, was critical of his former team in the media.

Eskimos assistant head coach and special-teams co-ordinator Noel Thorpe said he wasn’t completely surprised to hear comments from Prefontaine after he left.

“If you look back, probably when he left Toronto he had some choice words to say there and then when he left here he had some choice words to say,” Thorpse said. “How he feels and how he conducts himself when I was dealing with him was always in a professional manner.

“How he conducts himself when he left, that’s his own prerogative.”

Prefontaine said he felt unprotected while kickng in Edmonton and called for a scheme that would have helped him earn more than a 43.1-yard punting average.

“I think we provided excellent protection for him back there, we haven’t had a punt blocked in three years,” said Thorpe, adding of the record-setting safeties: “He’s not giving them up, the team is giving them up. It’s a decision made by the head coach.”

But Thorpe fully understands Prefontaine’s concerns when it came to one-step punting.

“What’s evolved here is we’ve got an athletic punter back there, a guy that can run and throw the ball. We spread our formations. We’re going to ask the return team or the defence to defend us as opposed to us defending them. Schematically, whether that calls for a one-step, two-step, three-step, that’s dependent on the pressure that we’re getting,” Thorpe said. “Towards the last couple games, it turned more into a one-step punt for us than in the past. It’s something that we’ve worked with and evolved with and he was very good at.

“We asked him to do it and he did his job. Unfortunately for him, it was something he didn’t like to do. That’s his opinion. It’s no different than a quarterback, or a defensive lineman asked to take a double team — they don’t like it, sometimes they want to get one-on-ones. He wants to kick away, I can understand that.”

Thorpe also understands how special teams work in the CFL, and the strategy the Eskimos employ.

“Our goal is to make sure that we didn’t get any punts blocked and to minimize returns and I think the statistics spoke for themselves,” he said. “Did it hurt him a little bit in gross-punting average? Yeah, it did. We asked him to make a sacrifice and he did do that. And I think that the benefit you saw with our coverage unit and what we were doing from a net punt average is the result.

“Everybody’s got to make sacrifices, he did do that. He said what he wanted to say when he left.”

But Thorpe isn’t taking too much offence from Prefontaine’s Parthian shot.

“I think it’s a question of: he wanted to make sure that everybody knew what he was doing wasn’t a reflection of him, himself, but a reflection of what we were asking,” Thorpe said. “I’ll tell you right now, this is what we were doing and this is what we wanted to do. We’re asking him to do it. He did a good job of doing it — as a matter of fact, he did an excellent job of doing it.”

NOTE: The Eskimos claimed import kicker Justin Medlock off of waivers from Toronto, the club announced following post-practice media availability Thursday.

gerry.moddejonge@sunmedia.ca


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