Ryan not a lock for NFL

Punter Jon Ryan will give the NFL a shot before testing CFL free agency. (Winnipeg Sun File/C....

Punter Jon Ryan will give the NFL a shot before testing CFL free agency. (Winnipeg Sun File/C. Procaylo)

PAUL FRIESEN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 9:38 AM ET

Winnipeg Blue Bomber fans watched him kick footballs this past season like nobody in CFL history. Everybody, even teammates, seems to think he's a lock to make the NFL.

Everybody except Jon Ryan, that is.

The Bomber punter with the bionic leg is still rehabbing an ankle injury he suffered in Game 17.

When he's 100%, he plans to give it 100% to land an NFL tryout.

But the redhead from Regina doesn't share the popular view that he'll ride his strong leg straight to American riches and glory without even breaking a sweat.

"To be honest, it's probably a bit of a long shot to play in the NFL," Ryan was saying from Saskatoon yesterday. "The NFL isn't automatic for anyone. You see guys that have been playing there for four or five years suddenly get released and not picked up. It's tough to make it down there."

That might come as a shock to those who assume that anybody with a better-than-50-yard average in the CFL should have no trouble putting up an average of, say, 45 yards south of the border.

Problem is, there's a lot more to punting than just knocking the leather off the ball. Particularly in the NFL, where hang time is king, and placement the heir to the throne.

And don't think the five blocked kicks Ryan had in 2005 won't jump off the page when the NFL scouts take a look at the stats. All the distance in the world won't make up for a guy who can't get the ball off once every three or four games, on average.

Don't forget the competition for jobs down south, too.

A University of Regina product, Ryan will be like a novelty item among dozens of American college graduates and free agents trying to kick their way through an NFL door.

"You look at how many guys come out of Division I-A football every year," Ryan said. "Guys from big schools don't even get a look. So it's a long shot for a guy from the Prairies."

So no, Ryan won't be Mr. Automatic in the Excited States.

The fact he realizes it should put him in good position, though, to put his best foot forward.

Ryan's agent will begin sending out DVDs of his highlights shortly, which should lead to personal workouts, likely in the New Year.

Now, Bomber fans might assume he's gone whether he makes the NFL or not, since he's set to become a CFL free agent in February.

But Ryan sounds like someone who'd seriously consider coming back to the 'Peg, even though the Bombers have missed the playoffs the last two seasons.

"I'd be very interested in going back to Winnipeg," Ryan said. "If things fell through in the States, they'd definitely be one of the first teams I'd talk to.

"Hosting the Grey Cup next year, they're going to do whatever it takes to make the playoffs ... they might be putting a little more money into things next year."

Some of that cash will have to go straight into Ryan's jeans.

In fact, should he not make the NFL, he'll be a good test case of Winnipeg's willingness to compete, financially, in a CFL where the salary cap is little more than a rumour.

FROM CUP TO COACH: Now that Grey Cup week has passed, the Bomber brass has cranked up its search for a new head coach.

Joe Paopao, Greg Marshall (both formerly Ottawa) and Richie Hall (Saskatchewan) have already been interviewed.

President/CEO Lyle Bauer and GM Brendan Taman are expected to grill at least one more candidate today.

They wouldn't divulge any names, but don't be surprised if you see Toronto offensive co-ordinator Kent Austin around town.

The Bombers are also expected to make contact with Calgary co-ordinators Steve Buratto and Denny Creehan, along with Montreal offensive boss Doug Berry, in the days to come.


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