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JIM BENDER -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 9:39 AM ET

Those satellites orbiting Canad Inns Stadium these days have been launched into the ozone layer by the bulked-up leg of Jon Ryan.

"He's faster, quicker, more powerful," Winnipeg Blue Bombers head coach Jim Daley marvelled yesterday. "Other than needing a haircut, he's looking good."

So good, in fact, it has been suggested that fellow kicker, Troy Westwood, has been calling NFL scouts to come check out the sophomore punter so that he can get both the punting and placekicking chores back.

NFL ASPIRATIONS

Ryan, who is entering the option year of his contract, does have some niggling NFL aspirations.

"I would be lying to you if I said I didn't," he admitted. "But right now, that's the furthest thing from my mind. The No. 1 thing is to help this football team win right now."

There have been no discussions with Bomber management about a possible contract extension so, Ryan could become a free agent as soon as this February.

"But it's still early," he cautioned. "We'll see what happens."

Ryan punted for a 61-yard average in Winnipeg's first pre-season game against Edmonton, then followed that up with a 46.8 in the second. His 43.2 was the fourth-best average in the league in his rookie campaign and that included a 92-yard punt -- the longest in the CFL. But it could have been better.

"He was very good in the first half of the year," Daley said. "He hit a wall in mid-season, which all rookies do.

"At the end of the season last year, I'm not sure how much he had left in that leg, which is why he went on that weight program and (bulked) up."

Ryan, 23, added 22 pounds of pure muscle and now weighs in at 219.

"The more weight, the more power you can put behind the ball, the farther it's going to go," explained the 6-foot University of Regina product. "As long as I didn't lose any flexibility, which I didn't, there's nothing negative that could come of gaining weight."

And he is much more confident in his second go-round.

"Last year, I didn't know what to expect so, I felt pretty nervous on the field most of the games, and that showed sometimes with a little inconsistency and what-not," Ryan said. "This year, I feel a lot more comfortable and a lot more relaxed around the field. So far, in the two exhibition games, it's shown that the nerves haven't gotten to me as much."

Last year was also the first time he had ever faced a CFL-type rush.

"That was the biggest adjustment of going from college to pro," Ryan said. "They're coming pretty hard at ya so, you have to get the ball off pretty quickly. Most teams saw a rookie punter back there and pretty much every team came after our punts. This year, I'll be a little more prepared for it and hopefully, I can get it off a little quicker so, teams don't feel that they can block punts on us."

And Daley knows the importance of a good punter.

"If he relaxes and punts the way he can punt -- without being thrown off by things like a bad snap or anything -- he will have a great year punting and we sure hope it starts this Saturday night (against the Saskatchewan Roughriders)," he said. "We can have a real advantage in field position with his leg. He can be an impact player."


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