Jovon of all trades

JIM BENDER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 12:02 PM ET

Good things can come to those who wait.

Although Jovon Johnson took some turns at returning punts at Winnipeg's training camp, it was not until the second half of last week's game against Montreal that the import Blue Bombers cornerback won the job over Fred Reid. At least for now.

It is a familiar story for Johnson.

"I did it in high school a lot," the 5-foot-9, 181-pound University of Iowa product said yesterday. "I played pretty much every position on the field in high school and returning was one of the things I did.

"In college, I was kind of a backup for a long time because our special teams coach at university was also the receivers coach, so he had all the receivers back there. I got an opportunity in my senior year and the first return, I had a return of 90 yards for a touchdown. It's just having a feel for the game and just having a knack for making plays. That's what I do."

Although Johnson came nowhere close to breaking one against the Alouettes, he did return an interception 80 yards for a touchdown in the second half.

"Oh yeah, I've been playing well," said Johnson, 24. "I can still play better."

Bomber head coach Doug Berry had hoped Reid could develop into a punt returner after returning kickoffs last year.

"But after the first couple of games, it is something that Fred is not real comfortable with and we're better off just turning the chore over to somebody that is," Berry explained. "That's why we're going with Jovon, who has done it before."

STARTS AT CORNER

But because Johnson also starts at one corner, Berry wants to "lighten the load" by spelling him off with receiver Arjei Franklin and tailback Charles Roberts.

"Going into (tomorrow's game against B.C.), they've got me as No. 1 on punt returns," said Johnson, who played three games for the NFL's Pittsburgh Steelers. "I'll just study film and be prepared for when the opportunity comes. When I get the opportunity, I'll have to make the most of it."

But he has already noticed one glaring difference between returning kicks on the more expansive CFL turf.

"Obviously, you've got one more guy to cover the punt but the field is much larger, so I've got more room to get loose to do what I can do," Johnson said.

And Johnson is still getting familiar with such intriguing nuances as the rouge and coffin-corner punts.

Both Franklin, a Canuck, and the veteran Roberts know all about that unique aspect of the Canadian kicking game.

"Every time I think about football, I think about running with the ball in my hands and trying to make plays -- that's basically what punt returns are all about," said Franklin, who returned kicks at the University of Windsor.

"It's a great opportunity. And it would be nice to get one on a punt return. Once you get that ball in your hands, you're thinking about taking it to the house. That is the ultimate goal as a unit and it would be a great way to get the monkey off the back, so to speak."

That monkey is the fact that Franklin has yet to score a CFL TD.

Reid, by the way, will still be the primary kickoff returner alongside Johnson and it looks like either Reid or Roberts will be sent back to return missed field goals.

Roberts, once a premier kick returner in the CFL, will be used as a returner whenever Berry feels the squad needs a spark.


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