Punter plans to have leg up on competition

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 7:50 AM ET

KEMPTVILLE -- The Renegades opened training camp yesterday with just one player who kicks for a living -- and he's coming off a bad season.

Sandro Sciortino's sudden retirement Saturday has left Ottawa with only Matt Kellett (place kicker/punter) and Pat Fleming (punter) to boot balls downfield, and Kellett is still waiting to see his new team's optometrist before getting the green light to take the field.

The veteran Kellett was acquired to give Ottawa some stability, with the thought that he could free up a spot elsewhere by taking on both positions.

Meanwhile, Fleming, a Kanata product who fell into disfavour with the coaching staff when he had the CFL's worst average (39.7 yards) in 2004, spent much of the winter in Texas working hard to get better.

And now, not only is he prepared to reclaim his job, but he also believes he could handle kickoff and three-point duties, too.

"Last year I was up and down, but the whole team struggled," said Fleming, who should get some company on the field in Kellett today. "I had some bad games that hurt my average a bit. But just because I was last in the league or whatever, it doesn't mean I'm the worst punter. I guarantee you I'm not. Stats can be misleading."

A confident Fleming is looking forward to the new season.

"I plan on having a big year," he said. "I've learned a lot in the off-season. Punting, I've gotten better ... (The placekicking) is much improved. I've got some more work to do. I was kicking off a tee all year ... it's a big difference from snap and hold ... Kickoffs are pretty good. I've got a strong leg, so I can put it down there.

"I think I can (handle both jobs)," he added. "I've definitely got the leg for it. That's not a question. I've just got to get some reps and get better. (But) punting I feel great. I expect to have a big year, a huge year."

Fleming said he was caught off guard by the trade for Kellett.

"I was a little surprised, but I mean it's competition and I love competition," he said. "It's a challenge. I love challenges.

"I expect to be the punter (and) possibly the field-goal kicker ... that's what my expectations are."

CHIP SHOTS: The first fight of camp featured veteran cornerback Dave Donaldson scuffling with lanky rookie receiver Bashir Yamini. It was a mild affair, especially compared to the Darryl Ray-Bo Rogers bout at practice last season ... Ray left the morning practice early after injuring his hamstring ... So did QB Tyler Paopao, who was favoring the shoulder that was repaired surgically in the off-season ... Rain kept the Renegades inside the gym for the afternoon practice.

HE SAID IT: Coach Joe Paopao said he first met new defensive co-ordinator Greg Marshall in 1987, when the two were members of the Ottawa Rough Riders roster. "I played poker at his house," said Paopao. "I think he still owes me money."

THE KOREY (BANKS) QUOTE OF THE DAY: "Right now, it's too early to tell," the colorful DB said of Ottawa's secondary. "But we are on pace to be real good, if not the best."


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