Wind promises to wreak havoc on kickers

PAUL FRIESEN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:26 AM ET

Here's a surefire way to get a kicker's attention.

Throw the phrase "70 km/h wind" at him on the eve of a CFL playoff game.

"Wow!" was Blue Bomber punter Pat Fleming's first reaction when told of yesterday's Environment Canada forecast for today's East semifinal against Montreal. "That's almost ridiculous. I don't think I've ever seen winds like that."

Of course, that was just the forecasted gusts. Prevailing winds should be only around 50 clicks, or enough to take a badly hit ball and knock it backwards.

To make matters potentially worse, Fleming is still nursing a leg injury, and didn't punt most of the week.

"My leg's a bit sore," he said. "It's been aching here and there. It's not that bad. It's playoffs, so you've got to suck it up."

Fleming's story is just part of the intrigue swirling around the Winnipeg kicking game today, to which fans who've followed this team all year might say, "What else is new?"

Cut abruptly after the first game, Fleming was called back Week 17, after an injury to Rob Pikula. And here he is, suiting up for his first career playoff game.

"I'm pretty excited," he said. "My first run at the Grey Cup. I'd love to get one. It would be a very strange route for me to get there. But I'd take it."

It would be a strange route for placekicker Troy Westwood, too. In and out of head coach Doug Berry's doghouse all season, Westwood could be playing his last home game as a Bomber, maybe even the last game of his career.

"There's going to be no moments of sentiment, or any nostalgia crap," Westwood said. "It's just not in the equation, at all. I'm not looking at it like this is my last hurrah. All that matters is (today)."

As for the forecast, Westwood wasn't surprised.

'BAD NEWS'

"It was so calm all week. I said to Cvetty (long snapper, Chris Cvetkovic), this is bad news when it's this calm all week."

Westwood knows entire seasons, good or bad, can be blown away in one or two plays when it's sudden-death football.

"Every single play in a playoff game is magnified 10-fold," he said. "Because of how critical those three hours are."

The wind can affect quarterbacks, too, so Winnipeg's Kevin Glenn hopes the forecast doesn't hold true.

"I'm not a wind guy," Glenn said. "I've played in two of the windiest cities, though, in Regina and Winnipeg. But you can't think about it."

Receivers will just have to learn to catch curve-balls.

"You just have to adjust, keep your eye on the ball," Montreal's Ben Cahoon said. "And if it's curving out there because of the wind, try to follow it."


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