Chance to shine

KIRK PENTON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:43 AM ET

The most professional satisfaction receiver Kerry Johnson gets these days is when the Winnipeg Blue Bombers break up a play that he spent all week running in practice against the defence.

That's how you contribute to your team's success when you're on the practice roster.

Today, however, Johnson and a few other players who are used to running scout teams will finally get a chance to do the real thing when the Bombers take on the Hamilton Tiger-Cats (1 p.m., TSN).

It's the regular-season finale for both squads, but it has no bearing on the CFL playoff picture. The second-place Bombers (7-10) will host next Saturday's East Division semifinal against the Edmonton Eskimos no matter what, while the Tiger-Cats (3-14) will finish out of the playoffs for the fourth straight season.

The Bombers are playing everyone who is healthy today and say they want to win for momentum's sake, but any starter with a minor ailment is getting a pass. Since Terrence Edwards will rest a foot injury, Johnson gets to play for the first time since Week 5.

The Oxford, Miss., product was in the starting lineup early in the season because Milt Stegall was recovering from knee surgery. Johnson served the role of possession receiver superbly, hauling in 20 catches for 152 yards.

In fact, through three weeks of the season only three players in the CFL had more grabs than Johnson, who had a 10-reception performance against B.C. in Week 3.

"About the time when I had the 10 catches was the first time since college I actually enjoyed playing football," Johnson said. "Before I guess I did it because of the (college) scholarship, and then from the scholarship it went to playing in the pros.

"But this year, during about the third, fourth or fifth game, I was out there for the first time actually enjoying playing football. I was hoping that I got to play for the rest of the season, but it didn't work out like that."

Stegall returned to the lineup, so Johnson went back to the practice roster, which is not unfamiliar territory for the 26-year-old. Since arriving in Winnipeg last year, Johnson has been on the practice roster for 29 of 36 weeks.

He's basically a backup receiver in the wrong town.

"No," head coach Doug Berry said, "he's right where we want him to be."

But how long will Johnson want to ride the pine? He says he enjoys being a part of the Bomber receiving corps, but the man has to make a living. The $500 weekly stipend that practice players receive doesn't go as far as it used to.

Johnson won't be auditioning today for only the Bombers, but the other seven CFL teams as well if Winnipeg decides to not pick up his option this winter.

"I will leave that in other people's hands," Johnson said. "I'm going to go out (today) and give my all and see what comes of it."

The Bombers will be watching. There is, after all, the chance that an import receiver spot could open up next year should Stegall decide to call it a Hall of Fame career after 14 seasons.

Bombers GM Brendan Taman will be watching Johnson closely today, considering it is one of the few times he gets actual game action.

"It's important for him to show well," Taman said.

If you were thinking you might see players taking it easy today, think again.

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THEY LET TROY IN

Troy Westwood is finally in.

The former Winnipeg Blue Bombers kicker who now writes a column for the Sun, has been granted media accreditation and a place in the press box for today's game against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

Westwood, who was denied media accreditation by the Bombers earlier this season, will write his Point After column off the game for tomorrow's paper.


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