Yet another chapter was written on Troy Westwood's book of doom yesterday.
Winnipeg's much-maligned kicker just turned in his best performance of the season last week. His reward? An unwelcome seat in the stands.
Although Westwood will be benched for the second time this season for tomorrow night's CFL contest versus the B.C. Lions here, this time it is due to numbers. Because injuries have ravaged the Blue Bombers offensive line, head coach Doug Berry said he will be forced to dress two Canadian backups as insurance, one more than usual. So, that non-import spot had to be opened up by sitting a Canadian from elsewhere and Westwood drew the short lace.
"That was not easy," Berry admitted. "I went through all the special teams and we just can't afford to take somebody off who's on four special teams so, it had to come down to a kicker. So, we decided to keep our punter, Rob Pikula, and this is a game where Troy is going to have to sit down."
Pikula will also handle the placekicking chores in Westwood's absence. But, why Pikula over Westwood?
"No. 1 is, who's our punter?" Berry responded. "That's the most important thing because that's what we do more often than not. And even when you compare the field goal statistics outside the 20-yard line, Rob has a little higher percentage than Troy does ... The one thing that Troy does have is the distance with his leg, particularly on kickoffs. But we're going to have to sacrifice something somewhere and that's the least of the things we're going to be sacrificing."
After Pikula suffered a mild concussion during last week's game against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, Westwood punted for a 56.7-yard average while also connecting on two short field goals, including the game-winner.
"It doesn't look like I'm rewarding him for doing an outstanding job, which he did last week," Berry conceded. "It was a very, very difficult decision ... That's something we have to do this week."
But it could be longer as both guard Matt Sheridan (ankle) and centre Obby Khan (knee) are expected to miss next week's match, too.
Before Berry confirmed Westwood's benching, the veteran kicker politely declined comment in the locker room. He could not be reached for comment afterwards.
Pikula, meanwhile, assured that he has recovered sufficiently from the concussion that he suffered during the first half of last week's game.
"I had a little headache the day after. Since then, I've been fine," he said.
"He got his bell rung a little bit, it was not a long-term concussion," Berry said. "He responded very well. Even the next day and all week long, he hadn't shown any symptoms at all so, I'm real confident. In fact, he's probably punted the best he's ever punted this week."
Ironically, Pikula had his best performance of the season when he replaced an injured Westwood and booted the winning field goal in Winnipeg's 22-21 victory over the Lions in B.C. in August. "I just got up to play the team that let me go," said the former Lion.
Pikula, however, is still attempting to adjust to the wind currents that can affect field goal attempts so adversely at Canad Inns Stadium.
"You never really get used to it," he said. "It can be blowing in your face one minute, then swirling the next."