Put end to gong show

KIRK PENTON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:37 AM ET

It's still only training camp, so we'll cut the Winnipeg Blue Bombers some slack when it comes to their kicking department.

But this gong show cannot continue during the regular season. When camp concludes in two weeks, the brass better make a decision it is prepared to live with beyond the first game of the CFL's regular season.

And if that future doesn't include Troy Westwood, so be it. Simply put, the 41-year-old doesn't deserve to go through another season of wondering, on a weekly basis, whether or not he has a job.

It's time to make a decision, one way or the other. The fans want it, the other players on the team want it, and heck, since we have your attention, we're sick of reporting about it.

It took only five days of training camp this year for the kicking conundrum to rear its ugly head again. When word got out that the Bombers are bringing in a fourth kicker to camp this weekend (Oregon State's Alexis Serna), there was Westwood again yesterday, standing before the throng of local media.

If nothing else, this frequent gathering with the press has allowed Westwood to master the art of shrugging his shoulders, as in, "What do you want me to say?"

"I don't care who they bring in," he said for the billionth time in the last 12 months. "All I'm consumed with is what have I got to do to get better as each day goes by. I'm thinking about fundamentals, making sure I'm putting myself in the best possible position to perform at the highest level possible.

"Everything that's happening around me, I can't concern myself with."

Head coach Doug Berry said his three placekicking and punting hopefuls (the others are rookies Brian Monroe and Darryl Wheeler) were once again less than spectacular yesterday.

"Probably not much different than they have all training camp -- inconsistent," Berry said.

But this is about Westwood, as many rookie kickers have come and gone over the years. The situation between Berry and Westwood started smouldering again on Monday, when the coach suggested that the kicker had lost leg strength over the winter.

"I have not lost any leg strength," the lefty said sternly yesterday. "... I'm kicking better as each day goes by, and I'm feeling stronger. Everything's good."

Westwood said he was 5-for-6 in the field goal department yesterday after going 2-for-4 in Wednesday's second session.

Berry, meanwhile, figures his three kickers have made only 50% of their field goal attempts, all of which have been from either 37 or 42 yards. That is not good, which is why Serna will be gracing Bombers training camp with his presence this weekend.

The real competition, however, will take place over the next two Thursday nights, when the Bombers play their two exhibition games. Berry, to his credit, has admitted that those two contests will go a long way in determining who his kicker/punter -- or kicker and punter -- will be.

"I'd love somebody just to be outstanding, way and above everybody else, but it's not that way," Berry said. "One day it's somebody, the next day it's somebody else.

"The bottom line is we're going to have to play some games and see what happens during these games."

If Westwood struggles mightily in those two matches, well, it would officially be time to cut the cord and, hey, get some salary cap room at the same time.

Even if Westwood would gladly accept job insecurity, weekly challenges and uncomfortable media scrums if it meant winning the first Grey Cup of his career, don't let him dangle. It wouldn't be fair to someone who's given so much to the franchise over the last 18 years.

So it's up to Westwood. He has about two weeks to pull up his socks and get back to the level he reached at the end of last season.

Because a firm decision (we hope, for everyone's sake) is just around the bend.


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