Punting battle heats up

Winnipeg Blue Bombers' Jon Oosterhuis is seen here during team practice at CanadInns Stadium...

Winnipeg Blue Bombers' Jon Oosterhuis is seen here during team practice at CanadInns Stadium earlier this week. The Bombers host the Toronto Argonauts on Friday. (Winnipeg Sun/C. Procaylo)

KIRK PENTON -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 8:41 AM ET

Troy Westwood went back to ignoring two people yesterday, as the Winnipeg Blue Bombers signed a second import punter.

Sam Paulescu, a 22-year-old straight out of Oregon State University, joined the club's practice roster and will be evaluated over the next week.

Fellow import punter Brian Claybourn will punt in Winnipeg's home opener tomorrow night against the Toronto Argonauts, and he knows many eyes will be on him.

Claybourn had a respectable 41.1-yard punting average in last Friday's season-opening loss at Montreal.

"I realize I didn't have the best game last week," said Claybourn. "And I really wasn't expecting somebody to come in that fast, but that's how it is. There's always somebody else waiting to take your job.

"... The part that gets to me is just knowing that I didn't perform to what I expected to, so I'm looking forward to getting out there this weekend and doing a little better."

POTENTIAL HITCH

A potential hitch in Claybourn's career path is this: Paulescu was actually Winnipeg's first choice for an import punter. The Los Angeles native had a 42-yard average with the Beavers, who are led by former Bombers head coach Mike Riley, and was ranked among the top three punters at April's NFL talent combine.

"Since we had Jon Ryan here last year, we're still looking for a special punter," said Bombers head coach Doug Berry.

"Even though Claybourn did an OK job last week, we're still looking to see if we can find someone that perhaps can do better, plus keep the pressure on the guy that's doing it."

Paulescu arrived in Winnipeg Tuesday night and was out on the practice field yesterday, but the Bombers didn't do any punting. So he sat and watched.

"I thought I'd have a little more work today, but I guess punting was on Monday," said Paulescu, who is in Canada for the first time.

The Bombers waited to sign Paulescu because he had to graduate from college first. Now that he's here, his goal is to become the team's full-time punter.

"Lord willing, yes," said Paulescu.

"If you can punt in Winnipeg, in this stadium, you can probably punt anywhere."

Which brings us back to Westwood, the 39-year-old Bombers placekicker who desperately wants to do the punting as well and treats all newly-signed punters the way homeowners treat termites.

"I'm out here punting every single day before practice for about a half an hour," said Westwood, "and I'm just trying to put myself in the best position I can to make the most of an opportunity if it happens to come my way.

"I will not give up."


Videos

Photos