Westwood finds role emotionally challenging

PAUL FRIESEN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:10 AM ET

He sits in his corner of the locker-room, the buzz of preparation all around him.

It's the biggest game of the season for his team, the only team he's known over a 17-year career, yet he's on the outside, looking in.

Not injured, but not playing. Again.

For the third straight game, Blue Bomber kicker Troy Westwood will sit in favour of Rob Pikula as the Bombers try to snap out of a late-season slide that threatens to knock them out of first place in the CFL East.

"It's challenging, for sure," Westwood said yesterday. "Emotionally challenging. I have a range of thoughts and emotions that are swirling around inside of me. I'm not really ready to state any of them publicly, yet."

Admitting he's not much of a spectator, Westwood says he'll be in the weight room for a good portion of tonight's game, perhaps coming out to watch the second half. Last week, he only watched part of the Bombers' loss in Calgary.

Asked how he chose his kicker for tonight's game, Bomber head coach Doug Berry lamented the fact neither kicker grabbed the job by the throat in practice this week. He then rattled off the field goal statistics that favour Pikula, calling it a "very difficult" decision.

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Pikula, a 25-year-old in his first, full season, is coming off a game in which he missed his only try, a 36-yarder.

The 40-year-old Westwood, Winnipeg's all-time leading scorer, is suffering through a season in which he's made just 60% of his.

"I know I've still got a real strong leg," Westwood said. "I still know, without question, that I can contribute in a positive way to this team."

The cold reality is he may not get another chance.

If not, the fourth-quarter, 14-yard field goal he booted to beat Hamilton here, Sept. 29 -- a game in which he also excelled as a punter, filling in for an injured Pikula -- will go down as the last of his career.

Word came out yesterday that Sean Fleming, Edmonton's veteran kicker, plans to retire after the season.

If this were to be Westwood's last hurrah, it's certainly not the way a player would want to go out.

"As a player, you seldom choose," he said. "I keep close to my heart the level that I played at the last time I was on the field."

It's not much, but it's all he's got.


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