No quit in Old Lefty

PAUL FRIESEN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:23 AM ET

He's been booed mercilessly, benched very publicly, and now, for really just the first time in his career, he's painfully battered.

But broken?

Forget it.

Love him or hate him -- and why is it there's no middle ground with Blue Bomber fans when it comes to Troy Westwood? -- you've got to hand it to the left-footed kicker: throwing in the towel is not an option in his play book.

Not even with an injury to the hamstring that's helped him earn a paycheque the last 17 years, and with a kicker 15 years his junior threatening to send him, not kicking, but screaming, into retirement.

"It's on its way to healing," Westwood was saying about his leg yesterday. "It's getting better every day. I'm getting treatment every day, icing the heck out of it, doing everything I'm told to do. In the next 48 hours I won't be walking with any type of a limp. Three weeks from date of injury is the goal, professionally speaking. I'm thinking two weeks.

"I guarantee I'll be back."

Back to being healthy enough to kick, that is.

Back in head coach Doug Berry's lineup? That's another story. One that depends on other factors, like the play of Rob Pikula and the mindset of his coach, who's been less than enamoured with the play of his 40-year-old specialist this season.

"That's not for me to decide," Westwood conceded. "I just need to get healthy. Whenever I'm ready to go, it'll be the coach's decision to make."

Again.

This soap opera has been running since training camp, remember, when Berry wouldn't let Westwood do any punting, eventually giving that job to Pat Fleming.

Episode 2 saw Fleming cut loose after one game and Westwood sent to the bench, where he could only watch as the newly acquired Pikula got a shot at the entire kicking job during a week of practice that was sheer hell.

In Episode 3, Pikula held onto the punting duties and Westwood was given back the kickoff and field goal chores. But that relationship began to sour Week 6 in Hamilton, when Westwood struggled again.

Then came last Friday in B.C., and a turn of events that nobody could have seen coming.

Through four years of college and 16-plus in the CFL, Westwood had never missed a game because of injury. The one time he got hurt he was back splitting the uprights the next week.

But early in the win over the Lions, Old Lefty pulled up lame after a kickoff. The diagnosis: a second-degree strain to his hamstring.

Somebody throw a flag. After everything Westwood has gone through, this is piling on.

"That which does not kill us makes us stronger," he said, quoting Nietzsche, the German philosopher.

That may be, but it's the play of a Polish kicker that could kill Westwood's hopes of kicking another field goal.

Pikula's 3-for-3 performance in Vancouver, providing the winning points in a tight game, is exactly what Berry has been looking for. Bomber fans, too, for that matter.

If the youngster keeps it up, it might not matter how Old Lefty's leg feels.

So is Westwood sitting at home sticking needles into a Rob Pikula doll? Hardly.

"It's different watching someone do it when you're hurt, as opposed to when you're not hurt," Westwood said. "Rob and I have formed a relationship in the time he's been here. I was sitting in the end zone watching the game, and what a great game to watch, cheering for us every single second of the way. It was great to see Rob come through when called upon."

You get the impression he means it, too. Even if it could mean the end of his career.

What a lousy way to go out, though.

"Is there a good way to go out?" Westwood wondered, aloud.

How about on top?

Of course, that would mean quitting. Which probably isn't in Westwood's vocabulary, either.


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