Family first consideration in Fleming retirement

KIRK PENTON -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 11:41 AM ET

Family comes first for Joe Fleming, and that's why the 34-year-old defensive tackle is retiring from the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

Fleming decided Thursday to call it a career after nine solid seasons north of the border.

"I'm pretty at peace with the decision right now, which is good because I didn't think I would be," Fleming said yesterday from his hometown of Boston. "But when it comes down to your family and you're making the decision for someone that you love, then it's pretty easy. Nothing's horribly wrong, nothing's tragic. But there's some family things that definitely were much more important."

Fleming also retired in 2002, but returned to the Calgary Stampeders in 2003 and was the CFL's defensive player of the year. He came to Winnipeg -- for the second time in his career -- in September 2004 in the Khari Jones trade.

Despite being in the twilight of his career, Fleming and fellow tackle Doug Brown formed a formidable duo in the middle of defensive line. Bombers head coach Doug Berry said Fleming, a four-time CFL all-star, will be missed for more than his play.

"When you lose somebody of that calibre, you lose a little bit in your locker-room," he said.

Berry was disappointed with the timing of the decision. The Bombers likely would have pursued free-agent tackle Jerome Haywood had they known Fleming was calling it quits.

Haywood, a former Ottawa Renegade, signed with the Montreal Alouettes.

Fleming, whose career highlight is winning the Grey Cup with the Stamps in 2001, said he let the Bombers know a month ago there was a chance he might not be coming back.

Bomber GM Brendan Taman will add another tackle to the training camp roster as soon as possible. Fleming's retirement will free up approximately $170,000 in salary.


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