Blue Bomber Report Record: 7–11–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Kickers in a knot

DeAngelis here to compete, but can Palardy answer the wake-up call?

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Sandro DeAngelis (12) is a three-time CFL all-star who has been biding his time coaching in Nebraska. He feels he can give incumbent Justin Palardy a run for his money.

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Sandro DeAngelis (12) is a three-time CFL all-star who has been biding his time coaching in Nebraska. He feels he can give incumbent Justin Palardy a run for his money. Photo Store

The media blitzed Sandro DeAngelis immediately after practice wrapped on Tuesday, and the kicker cocked an eyebrow at the wall of hungry reporter eyes.

"Wow," he said a little dryly, but he didn't actually sound surprised. After nine seasons in the CFL, DeAngelis is used to being that guy, the one cameras always hunt down, the one that print reporters approach with their notebooks flipped to a fresh page. Through the rollercoaster of his career -- one that saw him go from three-time CFL all-star to bouncing between teams, struggling to keep a gig -- he has always had plenty to say.

Still, just two days ago the 32-year-old Ontarian was living a quieter life, coaching teens at Millard North High in his adopted hometown of Omaha, Neb. He would rather have been playing, but the Saskatchewan Roughriders released him earlier this year after a disappointing 2012 season. So he took up another gig, and waited for the CFL call that he always believed would come.

He just wasn't sure when. "Life of a kicker," DeAngelis said. "You have to kind of be ready at the drop of a hat... It's crazy, but we signed up for this crazy business. This is just a typical day at the office for us in pro football. Things change, and they change in a hurry."

Things changed on Sunday night this time, with Bombers brass at the other end of the line. Head coach Tim Burke hasn't hidden his disappointment with Justin Palardy this season, and with the team in a shakeup it was time to push the matter.

"We just felt like we needed more competition in that spot," Burke said. "Sandro's a guy who's got a lot of different tools in his bag, and we just thought we'd bring him in... and see who wins the battle."

Flux

On the field Tuesday, it was DeAngelis who took most of the reps, though Burke said that's just because he hasn't kicked in a while. DeAngelis said he's been given no guarantees about his role with the club. He knows things are in flux right now.

"There's nothing I haven't seen in this league," he shrugged. "I've seen the highs of winning Grey Cups, I've seen the lows of being out on the street with no kicking job. Nothing surprises me anymore."

And there are few surprises in Winnipeg, either, not with the staff and players looking so familiar. DeAngelis knows Burke and special teams co-ordinator Craig Dickenson from their time in Calgary, where he impressed with his key game-winning kicks -- he was then the most accurate kicker in the league. He knows new offensive consultant Marcel Bellefeuille from his 2010 season with the Ticats, where Bellefeuille was head coach.

He also knows Palardy, who punted for the Ticats when DeAngelis kicked there.

"It seems like yesterday we were together," DeAngelis said. "Justin and I and Mike (Renaud, punter), it's a small, close-knit fraternity as kickers. We get each other... and everybody's handling it the best way they can. At the end of the day, you just let the chips fall where they may."

Naturally, though, DeAngelis hopes those chips fall his way. He believes he can still be the kicker who led the league with the Stampeders and notched five field-goals -- one from 51 yards out -- to clinch the 2008 Grey Cup. He still has that fire inside, though battling through the last few seasons and becoming a father has settled him from the spitfire he was.

"They're the greatest thing that's ever happened to me," DeAngelis said of sons Max, 4, and three-year-old Cruise, who are back in Omaha. "It makes you a better person... you develop the patience you never thought you could have. It gives you a better perspective that the world isn't all about you."

melissa.martin@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 14, 2013 D3

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