Blue play keep-away

JIM BENDER -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 7:52 AM ET

Quality kick returners are making cowards of them all.

Including the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Head coach Jim Daley readily admits that the Bombers are so afraid of opposing returners hitting pay dirt these days that they try to avoid kicking the football to them at all costs.

COWARDLY?

Some would call that cowardice.

"Last year, we won a game, in large part, due to a Keith Stokes kickoff return so, I could care less if someone thinks kicking the ball away from a returner is cowardly," Daley said yesterday. "We're not here to do anything except win and that gives us the best chance to win, period."

The Bombers were so determined to avoid putting the ball into the tiny hands of Montreal's ever-dangerous Ezra (Itty Bitty) Landry that some of their kickoffs almost backfired, with the Alouettes even scrimmaging at midfield after one kickoff.

"It's certainly desirable to keep the ball away from dynamite weapons," Daley said. "We went away from Ezra Landry last week and, to tell you the truth, it's not easy to avoid kicking to him, as simple as it sounds. We might have been 50-50 in getting it over into the general direction that we wanted because it's hard to do. But we don't want guys like Ezra Landry touching the ball any more than they have to."

Landry, who has already returned one punt and a missed field goal for touchdowns this CFL season, had one 19-yard kickoff runback and eight yards on two punt returns against Winnipeg. He also fumbled the ball away when linebacker Willie Fells stripped it on a missed field goal return. Fells scored on the play.

Because kicking the ball out of bounds on kickoffs is illegal, the Bombers have adopted the now-popular pooch kick where the placekicker pops the ball up in the air and it seldom travels far enough downfield to where the most treacherous returners await. That can have mixed results.

"But Ezra Landry scored two touchdowns versus Edmonton and they won by what? Three points?" said Daley. "If it doesn't end up exactly where you'd like it and they end up at the 40 or 45, that's not what you'd love. But it's better than giving Ezra Landry a chance to go to the 55. You have make your decision -- which is your poison? That poison I'd rather have than that poison (where the returner scores a TD)."

The Bombers are not the only one who have adopted such a policy. In fact, a proposal to make punting the ball out of bounds illegal was voted down last winter.

RETURNERS APLENTY IN T.O.

The Bombers will next have to deal with arguably the best returner outside of Winnipeg in Toronto's Bashir Levingston this weekend.

"They bring in a whole bunch of problems," Daley said. "They've got returner after returner after returner, led by Levingston. But there's nothing wrong with (Tony) Miles and there's nothing wrong with (Arland Bruce III). So, they pose a whole different return game in terms of kickoff returns and punt returns."

So, that means there will be even more players to dodge that day.


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