Blue Bomber Report Record: 6–7–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Taking one step at a time

Filling in for Renaud gets Hajrullahu closer to goal of both kicking jobs

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Blue Bombers placekicker Lirim Hajrullahu won't have a lot of time to lie around as he takes over punting duties while Mike Renaud recovers from a hamstring injury.

JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Blue Bombers placekicker Lirim Hajrullahu won't have a lot of time to lie around as he takes over punting duties while Mike Renaud recovers from a hamstring injury. Photo Store

Lirim Hajrullahu won't tip toe around the topic.

He'd like to one day handle all of the kicking chores for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers -- the placekicking, kickoffs AND punting.

Funny thing about all that: Mike Renaud -- the Bomber punter before he pulled a hamstring in the pre-game warm-up last Thursday and was replaced by Hajrullahu -- was not only the first to offer tips to the guy taking his job, he's been just as gracious in the days since.

"During the game he helped me a lot with the mental side of things: how to prepare for the game, how to manage it," said Hajrullahu after practice Monday. "I'm grateful he was there and able to help me out."

The rookie kicker punted 10 times in the loss to Edmonton for an average of 45.2 yards. Head coach Mike O'Shea praised Hajrullahu for his tunnel vision -- the ability to tune all out and just kick -- but Renaud played a role in that.

"After the second punt -- my first punt was good (46 yards) my second punt was not so good (25 yards) -- he said, 'Every kick doesn't have to be a bomb. You've got to manage it. If you're going into the wind, be accurate it and put it outside the (yard) numbers. You don't have to hit 60-yard bombs because the probability of that is very slim. And when you're with the wind, you can unleash a little bit.'

"He helped me prepare in doing the rep on the sidelines before I even got out there.

That's the kind of character he is. He's a team player. He wants us to succeed, he wants me to succeed. He knew he was injured and he's willing to help, even today, any way he can. He asked, 'Lirim, let mewhen know if you want me to hold the balls to you, throw the balls to you, whatever it is, I'll help you.' I'm very grateful."

But such is the nature of pro sports -- as helpful as Renaud has been, Hajrullahu might take his job. It's probably not a coincidence that the club also added linebacker Kyle Jones on Monday -- and he can punt on an emergency basis.

Hajrullahu handled all the kicking chores in college at Western and will do so for the next few weeks while Renaud recovers.

What awaits Renaud when he is healthy again, no one knows.

"I want to be able to do them all and this is one step closer, I guess," said Hajrullahu. "I'm just going to keep working and when Mike comes back and gets the job back I know I'm going to have some experience and I can work toward that in the offseason for whenever the opportunity might arise again."

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @WFPEdTait

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 22, 2014 D3

History

Updated on Tuesday, July 22, 2014 at 8:36 AM CDT: Corrects typo

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