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Wednesday, August 17, 2016

CFL WEEK 8 TRENDS

Swayze Waters is looking for a job, but don't expect him to return to the Toronto Argonauts any time soon.

Waters spent four seasons as a kicker and punter in Toronto before signing as a punter with the NFL's Carolina Panthers this off-season. But he was released Monday following Carolina's 22-19 exhibition loss to Baltimore last week.

Waters struggled in the contest, punting three times for a 34.9-yard average. His longest boot covered just 39 yards.

Waters earned a Grey Cup ring with Toronto in 2012. He was the CFL's top special-teams player in 2014 when he averaged 47.7 yards per punt and connected on 47-of-52 field goals.

But Waters missed most of the 2015 season with a hip injury.

Trouble is, Toronto (4-3) isn't in need of a kicker. Canadian Lirim Hajrullahu has made 17-of-20 field goals (85 per cent) and sports a solid 44.1-yard punting average.

"Honestly, Lirim has done nothing but good things for us,'' Argos GM Jim Barker said Tuesday. "We're not in the market right now for a kicker.''

One team that could be is the Montreal Alouettes. Sophomore Boris Bede converted just 7-of-16 field goals before going on the injured list.

American Anthony Fera hit on four-of-five field goals in Montreal's 23-12 loss to Edmonton on Thursday while averaging 43.8 yards on five punts.

This marks Waters' fourth NFL setback. He was released by Detroit, Pittsburgh and Oakland before joining the Edmonton Eskimos in 2012.

Waters has two good reasons to wait before determining his football future.

First, he could land another NFL opportunity as an injury replacement. And with CFL teams being more than a third through the season, many might not have the cap space to pay him accordingly.

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SURGING BOMBERS: Winnipeg is 3-0 with Matt Nichols under centre, earning the veteran quarterback plenty of accolades for helping reverse the Blue Bombers' fortunes. But Nichols has had plenty of help.

Nichols has completed 66-of-92 passes (71.7 per cent) for 796 yards and five TDs in his three starts. More importantly, he's thrown just one interception and done a nice job of managing the game and protecting the ball.

But Winnipeg's defence has definitely been opportunistic. It has forced 13 turnovers (nine interceptions, three fumble recoveries, one on downs) the last three games with C.J. Roberts and Maurice Leggett both scoring defensive TDs.

The Bombers (4-4) headed into their first bye week with five interceptions and a fumble recovery in Friday night's 34-17 road win over Toronto. Winnipeg has forced 27 turnovers so far this season after registering 42 all of last year.

And then there's receiver Clarence Denmark, who has 14 catches for 264 yards and three TDs two games into his second stint with Winnipeg. Denmark spent five seasons with the Bombers before being released this off-season.

He signed with Saskatchewan but was released. However, with receivers Darvin Adams, Weston Dressler, Ryan Smith and Quincy McDuffie all injured, the Bombers re-signed Denmark, who had seven catches for 195 yards and two TDs versus Toronto.

Kicker Justin Medlock has also been automatic. He's made 14 straight field goals, of which eight have come in the last three games. Medlock has also been perfect in conversions (CFL-high 16 straight) and sports a solid 44.3-yard punting average.

Winnipeg returns to action visiting the Montreal Alouettes on Aug. 26.

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RIDERS, STAMPS DEAL: It seems Chris Jones doesn't hold a grudge.

Less than a week after having some harsh words for Calgary head coach Dave Dickenson, Jones acquired veteran defensive backs Fred Bennett and Jeff Hecht from the Stampeders for two negotiation list players.

Jones, the Saskatchewan Roughriders head coach/GM, exchanged words with Dickenson following Calgary's 19-10 win Saturday at Mosaic Stadium. Although neither Jones nor Dickinson would divulge what was said, Jones reportedly told Dickenson to ``win with some class.''

The comment came after the CFL fined Saskatchewan $60,000 and cutting its salary cap by $26,000 for practising with ineligible players. After the Riders had made some roster moves, Calgary quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell suggested on Twitter the new acquisitions had been with the team all along.

The CFL also fined Saskatchewan $15,000 fine earlier this season for playing too many Americans in a game versus the B.C. Lions.

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THIS 'N THAT: Ottawa resumes action following its bye week with Henry Burris as its starter. Burris will play Friday night when Ottawa faces Montreal. It will mark the third straight start for Burris since coming off the injured list with a hand ailment. Burris began the season as the Redblacks starter but was hurt in their 45-37 overtime win over Edmonton. Trevor Harris replaced Burris and remained the starter until suffering lower-body injuries in a 30-29 loss to Saskatchewan on July 22 . . . Edmonton has signed veteran defensive lineman Jason Vega. He spent last season with Toronto and broke into the CFL in 2010 with Hamilton before heading to Winnipeg (2011-12). Vega split the 2013 campaign with the NFL's Dallas Cowboys and New England Patriots.

(Canadian Press)

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