Kickers battle for jobs

KIRK PENTON -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 7:28 AM ET

The kicking game is the battle to watch at Winnipeg Blue Bombers practice these days.

Will Troy Westwood do the punting and the placekicking, or will rookie Sam Paulescu get to do both?

Then again, could they end up splitting the duties?

Those questions remain unanswered just two days before Winnipeg's game against the Edmonton Eskimos, which goes Saturday night at Canad Inns Stadium.

It appears Westwood at least will do the placekicking after nailing five of six field goals during yesterday's practice. Paulescu, who made only two of his six field goal tries, appeared to have a slight edge in the punting department, however.

It's believed Westwood might punt a few times against the Eskimos, even if Paulescu is activated in favour of the recently released Brian Claybourn.

Westwood reminds anyone who will listen that he was the CFL's third-best punter just three seasons ago, and he is still doing everything in his power to win that job back.

Even Westwood's old kicking cohort, Bob Cameron, stopped by yesterday to have a quick chat with him near the end of practice.

Westwood, who has been known for his quirkiness at times, relishes the current uncertainty of his job status.

"Every single day of practice feels like game day, and I kind of dig it," said Westwood. "I dig how it's really an intense environment right now, and I have no problem with that.

"I'm not paid to do anything but kick and punt, hopefully, so that's all I can concern myself with.

"... I don't think it's wearing on me in a negative way. All my senses are heightened tremendously, I'll tell you that."

The Westwood-Paulescu battle could end up playing a role in getting linebacker Kyries Hebert into the lineup in future weeks. If Westwood, a non-import, does both the placekicking and punting, it would free up a designated import spot, which could be filled by Hebert.

Head coach Doug Berry, however, needs to see Westwood deliver solid punts on a consistent basis if he's going to give the second job to the 39-year-old.

"He's capable of kicking a 55-yard punt and placing it perfectly, and then the next time making it a 32-yard punt off to the middle of the field, where we don't want it kicked at all," said Berry.

The battle between Westwood and Paulescu will go down to the wire this week. The duo will practise kickoffs today, and then Berry will make the call.

"Not until game day, though, or close to it," said Berry. "That will be the last decision we make."

DELIGHTFUL D-LINE: Bombers DT Ron Warner was named the CFL defensive player of the week yesterday, while his colleague, DT Doug Brown, earned lineman of the week honours.

Warner had four sacks and three tackles in Winnipeg's 16-9 win over the Toronto Argonauts last Friday, while Brown had one sack and three tackles.

"Ron is becoming a good player because he has attitude," said Berry. "... He's not nearly as good as he's going to be. He's still a young guy in terms of being an interior defensive lineman."

Bombers C Obby Khan was one of the runners-up for lineman of the week.

Eskimos WR Jason Tucker was the offensive player of the week after hauling in eight catches for 152 yards and two touchdowns from quarterback Ricky Ray, who was the runner-up.

"(Ray) is the guy that's got us real concerned in what we're doing this week," said Brown. "Hopefully we can keep him off the awards page next week, but it's definitely going to be a chore."


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