Grow up to be punters

KIRK PENTON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:36 AM ET

Mike Kelly wants to know where all the Canadian kickers are.

"Folks, get your kids in the back yard," the Blue Bombers head coach said yesterday. "To hell with ringette; get them punting. If you want your son to be in the CFL, get him punting and kicking through the maple trees right now. Really, who's a young Canadian punter and kicker who's doing the job right now? There's nobody there."

When it comes to Canadian players who do both the punting and placekicking for their respective CFL teams, they are all long in the tooth. Edmonton's Noel Prefontaine is the baby of the group at 36, while Toronto's Mike Vanderjagt and B.C.'s Paul McCallum are both 39.

The Bombers would love to find a double-dipping Canadian, but right now they would gladly settle for a Canuck punter after free agent Burke Dales spurned their aggressive offer and re-signed with the Calgary Stampeders on Tuesday. The only problem for the Blue and Gold is there aren't many out there who are CFL worthy. The long list of those who have tried and failed at the last few Bomber training camps proves that.

"It's one of those cycles, and there's nothing you can particularly put your finger on right now, but we're going to investigate as many kids as we can," Kelly said. "I believe that (returning import) Alexis Serna can be a good placekicker for us. If we can alleviate some of the punting from him and just let him concentrate on kicking, I think that will help us.

"But again, we have to find a Canadian punter to do that, because you can't use up two American roster spots for the kicking game. So it's a bit of a conundrum right now. ... Every name that we can find, we're gonna be in contact with them."

The Bombers are also trying to find that special American, like Montreal's Damon Duval or Hamilton's Nick Setta, who can do both kicking jobs extremely well.

"We're sending (special teams coach) Rick Campbell to a kicking and punting camp down in Phoenix, to look down there," Kelly said. "We're going to exhaust every avenue that we can."

As for former Bomber kicker Troy Westwood, who turned 42 last weekend, Kelly said he would be used only in an emergency.

"And I'll be the one that will have the paddles on his chest when we call," Kelly cracked.

NOT SO FAST: The Bombers have put an end to cornerback Jovon Johnson's brief indoor football league season.

Winnipeg's previous coaching regime allowed Johnson, who is under contract with the Bombers, to play for his hometown Erie RiverRats of the American Indoor Football Association last spring. Winnipeg's new staff, however, doesn't want him playing and told him he couldn't suit up this year.

When the 25-year-old ignored that edict and played in Erie's season-opener two weeks ago, the Bombers invoked the clause in Johnson's contract that prevents him from playing off-season football.

"I appreciate his enthusiasm for the game and understand his desire to make a few extra bucks, but it's not in our best interest to have him playing," Kelly said.

"I'm not going to take him out behind the wood shed. We've asked him not to play, and that should be punishment enough."


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