Troy's welcome wagon

PAUL FRIESEN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 8:01 AM ET

It was midway through Blue Bomber practice yesterday, when head coach Doug Berry approached kicker Troy Westwood for a friendly little chat.

The subject of Berry's interest: the two new kickers in camp competing for Westwood's job, and, specifically, how Westwood was getting along with them.

"He asked how our relationship was coming along," Old Lefty explained later. "I let him know it was fine and dandy, that pleasantries had already been passed along and that everything was coming along, just dandy."

Of course, Westwood's idea of getting along with rookie kickers in training camp is to allow them to live.

Talk to them? Forget it. He won't even stand beside them. It's like there's a 15-yard buffer zone between No. 7 and anybody who wants his job. Enter it at your own risk.

SHARE SECRETS

Going into his 16th CFL season, Westwood won't even watch his would-be teammates kick, let alone share any trade secrets with them.

Want to figure out the wind here? Put up a whirligig.

If I were the new guys, I wouldn't even ask Old Lefty for directions to a good restaurant. They'd likely wind up at the dining room of the McLaren Hotel.

Westwood's explanation is simple enough.

"If somebody thinks I'm a jerk for that," he began. "I just ask anybody out there: if someone came into your office and for three weeks you were going to compete against them, and at the end of those three weeks only one of you was going to have a job, how would you treat somebody? It's not personal at all. It's completely business."

Yesterday, business just got a little more serious, with the arrival of 24-year-old Brian Claybourn and Kirk Yliniemi, 25, two Americans vying for the homegrown Winnipegger's paycheque.

Toss in the fact Westwood, at the ripe old age of 39, has a new coach to impress, and it's all the more urgent.

At least, after some perfunctory introductions.

That's right, Old Lefty actually went out of his way to say hello as practice got underway.

"I always do that," Westwood argued. "I never completely ignore them."

It's a different story if and when they actually make the team.

Remember, Westwood was loaded for bear when the Bombers first drafted Jon Ryan two years ago, but eventually became pretty chummy with the Regina redhead-turned NFLer, even taught him how to bodybuild, apparently.

Kickers have always been a different breed. The Flaky Fraternity, if you will. And Westwood has led the class for years, moonlighting in boxing, race cars, tap-dancing and music, to name a few (his second CD of story-songs concerning aboriginal history -- which he describes as "monumental" -- is due out soon).

Once you're in the fraternity, though, you tend to stick together.

That's why Westwood put in a call to the parents of Duncan O'Mahony the other day.

O'Mahony was supposed to be here, competing for Westwood's job, but mysteriously disappeared for a few days, worrying the Bombers and his friends and family.

"I can't fathom disappearing like that for three days," Westwood said. "I can't imagine how serious of an issue he's dealing with. It must be remarkably serious ... and I really just wanted to reach out to him and wish him well."

So, you see, Old Lefty's got some heart, after all.

Maybe he's softening in his old age.

"He was real nice, and made us real welcome," an unsuspecting Claybourn said. "I don't know if that's the norm or not. He didn't say anything bad, so..."

My advice: play it safe, and keep an eye on your shoes, rookie.

And don't ask him about the wind.


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