Another kick at the can

PAUL FRIESEN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:21 AM ET

With all due respect to Troy Westwood, when last season ended I thought that was the last we'd seen of him.

Even when he finished the year with a bang, booting the leather off the ball in the playoffs and the Grey Cup, I would have bet on the Bombers coming up with one of those "we're going in a different direction" announcements, wishing Old Lefty well in his future endeavours.

The circus that was this team's kicking game in 2007 -- the new faces in and out of the lineup, the open competitions in practice and the divisive effects they had in the locker-room -- were things head coach Doug Berry would avoid like the plague, my thinking went.

Westwood had two years to convince the new boss he could either be a dependable field goal kicker or a consistent punter, and it appeared he'd done neither, at least over the long haul.

Lo and behold, there's Old Lefty on the field for his 18th training camp, ready and willing to fend off the latest in a long line of competitors for his job.

And it only took until yesterday, Day 2, for the spotlight to find him.

Rather, it found his competition: 23-year-old Brian Monroe, a University of Miami product who was showing off his punting leg under the warm sun.

Monroe launched a couple of 55-yarders, drawing cheers from some of the 150 or so fans in the stands.

And from Berry, later.

"He struggled today with field goals, but his leg is still really, really strong," Berry said of Monroe. "His leg is certainly strong enough. He's very athletic and he's a big guy. He's very smooth, whether it's punting or kicking."

OK, coach, what about Westwood?

"Right now, he's really struggling," Berry said, blunt as a hammer.

And his leg strength?

"It's not there, what it was last year," the coach continued. "He's struggling and I know he's real concerned about it. He initiated conversation to come over to me and talk to me about it."

Sounded serious.

"Something in mechanics, most likely," Berry said. "We've got some guys that know a little bit about the kicking game. That's their specialty. He's going to consult with them and see if they can find a quirk, something that's developed, or what he's doing wrong."

Asked about Berry's assessment, Westwood just shrugged, saying he hooked a few field goal tries. No biggie.

"Today, I missed a couple I should have hit," he said.

Now, this isn't the first time coach and kicker have seen things differently.

But the cynic in you can't help but wonder, given their stormy, two-year history together, if Berry would latch onto any evidence that Westwood might be finished.

Not that you have to look that far to find it.

The guy's field goal success rate last season was a career- and league-worst 60.6%. Of course, a Westwood fan could latch onto his playoff stats, when he made six of seven.

He was also dynamite as punter in his last few games, a job he only got by default when Rob Pikula went down.

To be fair, Berry, who's never liked No. 7 as a punter, hasn't closed the door on Westwood doing both jobs this season.

"Because of what he did last year, I'm open to him starting out the season that way -- he finished strong," Berry said. "That'll identify itself more as we get more towards the end of training camp. We'll just let those guys compete it out and see where we're at."

The fact a 41-year-old is even competing against players nearly half his age is a credit to Westwood -- you've got to give him that.

"It's up to me," Old Lefty concluded. "If I'm kicking well, the struggles and challenges and highly publicized events of last year would never have happened.

"If I kick well, there's no issue."

When it comes to Berry and Westwood, something tells me there will always be an issue.


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