Bombers kicking up a storm

Bombers head coach Mike Kelly says they are about to sign an import punter. (Chris...

Bombers head coach Mike Kelly says they are about to sign an import punter. (Chris Procaylo/Winnipeg Sun/SUN MEDIA)

KIRK PENTON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 11:39 AM ET

Training camp starts four weeks from tomorrow, so Mike Kelly and John Murphy continue to massage the Winnipeg Blue Bombers roster in preparation of the big day.

The Blue and Gold released five imports yesterday, including four who were signed just this winter and never made it to Winnipeg.

The other was defensive tackle Josh Miller, who spent most of last season on the Bombers' practice roster.

One of the four who didn't make it to camp was kicker Kenny Byrd, who was going to challenge incumbent Alexis Serna and recently signed CFL veteran Dan Giancola.

"We think we've found people that will be more competitive," Kelly said yesterday from Philadelphia.

Kelly said the Bombers are about to sign an import punter who is also a kickoff specialist. Rumours indicate that player is North Carolina State's Bradley Pierson, who had a reputation in the NCAA as a strong directional punter.

That means the Bombers are poised to have one punter, one placekicker (Giancola) and one who can do both (Serna) at camp.

Kelly was impressed with the 39-year-old Giancola when he worked out for the team several weeks ago at Canad Inns Stadium.

"The thing that I liked is that his leg speed through the ball looked the same, whether he was kicking a 20-yarder or a 55-yarder," he said. "There was a nice consistency there in his momentum through the ball.

"He's in great shape, and he hasn't kicked for about four years, so there isn't a lot of wear and tear on him."

The other players released yesterday were defensive back Marlon Fair, and linebackers Rodrick Johnson and A.J. Nicholson.

PERSONNEL WATCH: The Bombers now have 68 players on their roster, and can carry as many as 75 up to the first day of training camp on June 7.

One of the reasons Kelly had to cull five members of his herd yesterday was he was hoping he'd be allowed to have 75 players at camp, even though league rules state teams can have only 68 "counters" (excluding draft picks) once main camp starts.

Kelly zipped his lips when asked why he was hoping to have 75 players at main camp.

"I'm going to shut up right there," he said. "I'm done on that subject."

Kelly's mouth has gotten him in trouble several times since he was named head coach in December, but he does have a sense of humour about it.

"Every speaking engagement I go to now, I say 'Lyle Bauer apologizes for anything I'm about to say,' and then I go into it," Kelly said.

LATE HITS: Murphy is hopeful he'll have signed contracts from the team's four draft picks early next week ... The Bombers want former NFL quarterback Quinn Gray to come to training camp, but the former Jacksonville Jaguars pivot, who impressed at the team's free-agent camp in Florida last month, is weighing his options. "It's really on him at this point," Murphy said. "It's a major decision, because of the fact that he is, for all intents and purposes, the next guy. Any (NFL) team that has an injury or has an issue at quarterback, he's basically first in line to go to camp. So to give up a chance to make your salary as a number two or even as a number three, it's a little bit of a decision." ... Former Bombers special teamer Adrian Baird, who left for Edmonton via free agency last February, was released by the Eskimos yesterday, as were defensive lineman Tyler Clutts and receiver Greg Prator. Murphy said any potential Bombers interest in the trio will be discussed by team brass on Monday.

kirk.penton@sunmedia.ca


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