Troy fits right in

Troy Westwood averaged 41.9 yards on nine punts during his first practice with the Bombers. (Sun...

Troy Westwood averaged 41.9 yards on nine punts during his first practice with the Bombers. (Sun Media)

KIRK PENTON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 11:47 AM ET

If Troy Westwood continues to punt the way he did in practice yesterday, you can bet he'll be on the field this Saturday against the Montreal Alouettes.

The 42-year-old, who answered an emergency call from the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on Monday, looked right at home in his first workout since the Blue and Gold released him in June 2008.

Westwood booted the ball nine times -- with the wind -- for a 41.9-yard average. His average on 53 career punts between 2000 and 2007 was 39.4 yards.

His longest punt yesterday was a 54-yard bomb with plenty of hang time, and his only clunker was a 26-yard duck that he tried to direct to the right. He also kicked a 37-yarder out of bounds, but the others were all between 40 and 48 yards.

Westwood, sporting Joe Poplawski's old No. 71 since his No. 74 practice jersey wasn't ready yet, felt good about his first day back, but he believes he can be better.

"I wanted to punt better than that, but the leg feels good and I think I'll improve markedly each day," he said. "There's no question with regards to power. I just need to settle down and keep my emotions in check and do the job.

"It feels real good. I feel explosive, and I know that I'm at least as strong as I was when I left last June. Leg strength is not going to be an issue."

Head coach Mike Kelly wasn't ready to proclaim Westwood as his punter for Saturday's crucial clash with the Alouettes, but he liked what he saw.

"You can still tell he's got strength behind his kick, and I'm sure tomorrow he'll be better than what he was today, and today wasn't a bad day for him," Kelly said.

"The strength is still there, the flexibility is still there, he had good extension. Now it's just a matter of the drop and the timing and all those things."

Westwood said he was welcomed back to the locker-room with open arms and that it didn't take long to get over the fact that he was actually back in the building after being released in June 2008.

"I was real nervous all day yesterday and before I got here, and then when I got here, after about five minutes of feeling like I was a stranger in a strange land, then it just kind of felt like you were home sort of thing," he said. "It was weird. I just fit back in with the fellas fairly quickly and felt pretty comfortable."

Westwood heard quite a few rookie comments and is therefore responsible for bringing the donuts today. It also appears he'll have to abide by the special teams law of paying a $5 fine each time he is interviewed.

"There's just been a lot of hugs, a lot of welcome backs," Westwood said. "It just feels real good. It feels like two weeks passed, not a year and a half."

Defensive tackle Doug Brown, formerly the oldest player on the team and one of its leaders, said there are no problems with Westwood's turn as a Sun guest columnist last season in which he spilled some locker-room secrets.

"Time heals all wounds," Brown said. "Stuff happens that people sometimes regret and or have conviction for doing it, and it's behind all of us right now. The most important thing is how those punts looked sailing through the air today. So that was a good thing."

A notable observer yesterday was longtime Bomber punter and Westwood confidante Bob Cameron. He was impressed with Westwood's punts, but he was more happy about his return to the organization.

"People say it's not righting a wrong, but it is -- the way he was unceremoniously dumped by the previous regime and Doug Berry," Cameron said. "It was ridiculous the way he treated him throughout the time that Doug was here, and this is the way it should happen.

"... I'm really impressed that Mike Kelly would do it, and I think Troy is going to show that he can still kick the ball. I was watching him in practice, and he can pound it still. He's in great shape. It's a perfect fit."

kirk.penton@sunmedia.ca


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