Contrary to public perception, it turns out that Paul McCallum actually struggles once in a while.
The B.C. Lions kicker hopes to put in a better effort against the Edmonton Eskimos on Friday after a couple of rare misses last weekend.
McCallum, who was almost perfect last season, missed two field goal attempts in a 23-20 loss to Saskatchewan. On the second one, Tristan Jackson returned the ball 129 yards for the decisive touchdown.
But McCallum, who booted a record 30 consecutive three-pointers in 2011, is not dwelling on his mistakes as the Lions (2-1) host the Eskimos (1-2) at B.C. Place Stadium.
“It’s professional sports,” McCallum said Thursday after a practice at the Lions’ facility in Surrey, B.C. “You’re not going to be perfect. So you’ve just gotta put it behind you and go out in this game here and try and correct the mistakes you made and work hard. That’s all you can do.”
The 40-year-old Surrey, B.C., native made 50 of 53 field goal attempts last season while helping the Lions roar back from a 0-5 start to win the Grey Cup. But he has already missed three this season while making good on nine of 12 attempts.
He has spent the past week reviewing video of his kicks from this season and previous campaigns in a bid to avoid more miscues.
“My timing was a little bit off,” said McCallum, who aims for a smooth golf-like swing with his kicking motion.
He was also approaching the ball differently and made an adjustment. The Lions are also deploying a new holder in backup quarterback Mike Reilly, the replacement for Jarious Jackson, who was released and signed with Toronto as a free agent.
Centre Angus Reid has also become the new snapper on field goals following Dan McCullough’s retirement. McCallum is still adjusting to the changes.
“It’s a work in progress,” said McCallum. “I’m not going to lie. Those guys are doing their jobs. But it’s a comfort level for me. The more work I get with them, the better.”
Reilly said Reid, also the centre on regular downs, has been able to position the ball well despite fatigue from drives down field, and he has been able to get the ball down on McCallum’s kicking tee every time. But the unit’s alignment was off the last game.
Before the season started, McCallum said his leg is not as strong as it used to be, but he is still able to make kicks when necessary. Lions coach Mike Benevides said he has no concerns about the 2011 CFL special teams player of the year’s ability to perform when necessary.
Benevides expressed confidence that McCallum’s video sessions with special teams coach Chuck McMann will pay off.
“It was a great exercise to go through,” said Benevides. “He looked at his mechanics. He looked at his tempo and his strike. He looked at the previous 12 kicks of this season and he was able to analyze (them).”
Benevides is more concerned about McCallum having to make tackles. The kicker saved a touchdown on the first of Jackson’s two returns as he got in the Roughriders’ way enough to bring him down. But McCallum was blocked on the second as Jackson took the ball all the way back.
“It’s not what he’s good at, and I don’t want him to do that,” said Benevides. “But it’s part of the deal. If he’s gotta make it, just slow (the returner) down a little bit, so someone else can get him.”
Admitting tackles are not a strong point of his game, McCallum, the last player back on kick returns, just tries to be a “speed bump” and slow the returner down.
In 2009, McCallum was limited to seven regular-season games after being injured while making a tackle on a return against Hamilton. Although Benevides recognizes that McCallum has to make a tackle when necessary, he would prefer that the kicker not be placed in a position where he has to get anywhere close to the returner.
“Paul is a safety for the field side,” said McCallum. “We don’t want him to be involved. We don’t want him to be involved. We want everybody else to make the play.”
Meanwhile, Nick Moore will make his first start of the season at wide receiver for the Lions after Kierrie Johnson fractured his forearm on a touchdown reception against Saskatchewan. Johnson is expected to be out until at least October.
Moore is grateful for the opportunity after experiencing injury troubles of his own and losing a starter spot last season. The 26-year-old Westerville, Ohio native separated his shoulder in the 2011 season opener against Montreal and then suffered a case of the drops after he returned.
As a result, he appeared in five games and made only five receptions. Moore spent the first three games on the practice roster. Lions general manager Wally Buono said in pre-season that this is a make-or-break season for the second-year Lion.
Moore had a strong training camp, earning heavy praise from Benevides, and scored two touchdowns in a 44-10 pre-season victory over Saskatchewan. The coach based his decision to go with Moore largely on his camp and pre-season showings.
Moore is banking on the early results to help him in his first regular-season contest of 2012.
“Last year was a frustrating year for me,” said Moore. “To be able to have a successful training camp and go out there in the first pre-season game and be able to make some plays, it helped my confidence tremendously.”
Quarterback Travis Lulay said Moore has looked comfortable in his second season. He predicted Moore will perform well in Johnson’s absence.
“Mentally, he’s in a good frame of mind,” said Lulay. “You can tell he’s excited to have an opportunity, and that’s what you want. You want to play with a guy who’s hungry to play well and play good assignment football and prove that he belongs.”
Notes: B.C. slotback Geroy Simon will play despite suffering a dislocated finger in Saskatchewan. ... Rookie defensive end Brandon Peguese will replace fellow DE Rajon Henley. Benevides said the move is designed mainly to use Peguese on punt returns. The first-year CFLer will not be used on field goals.