Pick up the phone

Former Bombers kicker Troy Westwood would be an excellent choice to punt for the injured Duncan...

Former Bombers kicker Troy Westwood would be an excellent choice to punt for the injured Duncan O'Mahony. SUN MEDIA/Jason Halstead

KIRK PENTON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:40 AM ET

The best punter inside the perimeter will likely watch Friday night's football game from his couch.

He should be on the field.

First, a disclaimer: I have gone on record as saying the release of Troy Westwood was a good move by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Last year's soap opera was too much for everyone involved, including Westwood.

It needed to end, and it did a week and a half ago when the team tubed Old Lefty and replaced him with the capable Duncan O'Mahony.

But then Westwood went and stuck a needle in his O'Mahony voodoo doll, forcing the team's new punter to break the fourth toe on his kicking foot during a dangerous, late-night trip to the bathroom on Sunday.

That changes things.

O'Mahony won't play Friday in the season-opener against the Toronto Argonauts, so Alexis Serna will take his place. Serna is an excellent placekicker who punted for one season (last fall, actually) at Oregon State. His 35.4-yard average, however, was dead last among the 119 punters in NCAA Division I.

Call me crazy for even suggesting the return of Westwood, but riddle me this: If the name of the game is putting your team in the best position to win a football game, why wouldn't the Bomber brass bring him back for Friday night's tilt?

Heck, you could even make it the guy's official swan song, as O'Mahony should be back the following week with a steel plate in his boot.

However, when head coach Doug Berry was asked yesterday if he was considering giving Westwood a call, he smiled mischievously and said, "Who? No."

Translation: Berry will quit before Westwood returns to the Blue and Gold.

Perhaps Berry just needs a refresher on the kicking stats, because he has been a little fuzzy this week. During his weekly radio show on Monday, Berry declared that all three of his punters last season -- Westwood, Rob Pikula and Pat Fleming -- had net averages of 31 or 32 yards.

He repeated those figures again yesterday, saying Serna couldn't be any worse than last year's trio. When it was pointed out that Westwood's net average last season was actually higher (41.5 yards), Berry said the league stats in his possession showed otherwise.

To his credit, Berry returned to the media room 10 minutes later to say he had been misinformed: Westwood's numbers were superior to those of Pikula and Fleming.

He didn't say anything about giving Westwood a call, though.

Now, we're not saying Serna won't be able to get the job done on Friday. He got off some bombs during yesterday's practice and feels much better about his punting these days.

The numbers, however, leave little doubt as to who's the better punter. The best example: Serna said his longest punt in college was 52 yards. Westwood's average last season was 48.

"I'm not going to come in here and say, 'Wow, he's the best punter in the league,' " Berry said of Serna. "That's not the point. The point is that he's our field goal kicker that I think can help us punting."

True, but Westwood can do more than help. His 17 years of experience wouldn't hurt, either. We're not so daft as to proclaim Friday's match a must-win, but losing their home-opener to their chief East Division rival would not set a pretty tone for the Blue and Gold's season.

Why not have the 17-year veteran on the field instead of the raw rookie doing a job that he's not supposed to be doing?

Westwood may not be the best punter in the world, but he's the best of what's available.

And he's right there on his couch, waiting for the call.


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