Beware of Bashir

JIM BENDER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:36 AM ET

He is without a doubt the most explosive threat to be added to either side on the eve of the CFL playoffs.

And the Blue Bombers know they had better beware of Bashir Levingston.

Montreal signed the kick returner extraordinaire, who has been in limbo since Toronto cast him adrift in August, last week. And Levingston will play against Winnipeg in tomorrow's Eastern semifinal at Canad Inns Stadium.

"He's definitely a weapon," Als head coach/GM Jim Popp told Montreal reporters. "You can't go against the things he's done. It's like Gizmo Williams. You know he has the potential to break one at any time -- in punts, kickoffs or missed field goals."

Like the former Edmonton kick returner and CFL's all-time leader in that category, Levingston has a career total of 15 return touchdowns, including a CFL record 129-yard missed field goal return earlier this season while he was still with the Argos.

"They're getting the best returner in the CFL on their team," Levingston bragged to the Sportsnet website.

"I'll bring killer instinct," added the 5-foot-10, 180-pound Eastern Washington product (same school as Winnipeg kick returner Keith Stokes). "Every time I touch the ball, I'm going to make something happen."

Bomber safety Kyries Hebert seemed to welcome the challenge.

"They could bring in Reggie Bush, we've got a job to do, we'll go out there and do it," Winnipeg's leading special teams tackler responded yesterday. "It's that simple.

WELL AWARE

"He's been around the league for a while, we know what he's capable of doing and most of us have played against him already, so we know what's expected of us."

The Bombers are well aware of the danger that Levingston poses.

"Levingston's been a great returner in this le ague," said Winnipeg head coach Doug Berry. "He's got some tremendous numbers. He's got a ton of touchdown returns of big distances and we certainly have to be very cautious of how we punt the ball, especially when we have wind to our back. We'd have to be careful not to out-punt our coverage. Punting into the wind is a different scenario.

"With Bashir, you really have to make sure you try to keep him contained and be very accurate with your directional punting."

Trouble is, Bombers punter Pat Fleming did not kick for a second straight practice yesterday because he has a sore leg.

"It's always a concern but there was no need to go out there and waste him," Berry said. "He doesn't need to punt every day."

Placekicker Troy Westwood has done all of the punting the past two days.

Although Westwood missed two of four field goal attempts against Montreal last week, Levingston's presence will not affect whether Berry decides to punt or placekick, he said.

"We have to be focused on our jobs at hand," Hebert said. "I mean, it's an execution thing regardless of who's back there. If we go out there and do our jobs like we should, we'll be OK."

Actually, the much-maligned Bomber kick cover may have been the best it has been all season during Winnipeg's 20-17 victory over the Als last week.

"Yeah, it was and we've got to continue to get better," Hebert said. "Right time of year to peak."


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