Not so special teams

JIM BENDER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:42 AM ET

They can't kick, they can't block, they can't cover and they can't run back much.

It almost sounds like the old Phil Collins tune, I Can't Dance.

But the Winnipeg special teams know they had better start dancing to a happier tune right now.

Placekicker Troy Westwood is under the gun again; punter Rob Pikula is being scrutinized for his inability to place punts consistently; the kickoff cover team allowed its biggest return of the season; and just about every time returner Albert Johnson III breaks a big return -- and those are far too rare -- it is called back due to a penalty.

The Blue Bombers are still seeking a new kicker but if Westwood gets another chance to redeem himself, he will be comforted by the return of Chris Cvetkovic. The long-snapper will return from a dislocated shoulder to replace fill-in Mike Mahoney, who was released yesterday.

Bomber head coach Doug Berry took notes on Pikula's coffin-corner punt attempts at yesterday's practice.

"I've never experienced something like this before," admitted Pikula whose 41.8-yard average is dead last in the CFL. "I just want to work through it and do my best and see what happens ... (Berry) wants perfection to go to a championship and that's what it's going to take. If we can get a game of punting that's always perfect, that will help the team out so much more.

"(Placing punts) is not easy. As you saw with (Argo kicker Noel) Prefontaine in Toronto, he had some lucky bounces. Sometimes, those bounces go for you and some don't."

Berry is still undecided as to who will be attempting field goals against Hamilton on Saturday.

But Berry is also seeking improvement in kick coverage and returns.

Although Johnson leads the league in missed field goal returns, the Bombers are seventh in punt return yardage and fifth in kickoff returns.

"The thing that stands out the most is that we're inconsistent," said Greg Bearman, who plays on all special teams. "You can see six or seven guys who consistently do their jobs and play well, play hard and run hard. But you're not going to be successful if there's six guys playing well. The weeks we play well, we have 10-12 guys doing their job. Our down weeks, you can see a few guys that make a physical error or mental error and you get a big return or a penalty and that's what hurts ya.

"One week, we go out and play great. The next week, it's garbage ...

"Heading into the last third of the season, we need to improve on our consistency because, once you get into the playoffs, a big play on special teams could make or break a playoff game."

It's up to such special teamers as Kyries Hebert, Neil McKinlay and Bearman to teach the others to start dancing to a better rhythm.

"We have to impose our wills on the younger guys or the guys who are more inconsistent and make them aware that they have to pull their weight, that you've got to go out there and fight and do your job, despite being a little nicked or tired," said Bearman, who is playing with sore ribs. "You have to physically prepare and mentally prepare to go out every week with high intensity -- because every play we play, it's a big swing in field position. It's critical that we give up little return yards and get big return yards to put our offence and defence in good situations.

"We've got to make sure everyone's in the right places and doing the right things. We've got to take that more on our won shoulders. It's on us."


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