ALI Mourtada knows he’s lucky to still be employed by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
Most teams would tell a kicker who’s 4-for-10 on field goal attempts to pack up and catch the first flight out of town.
Whether you agree with it or not, the Bombers continue to be patient with the 31-year-old from Foxborough, Mass. Mourtada is still the placekicker for the Blue and Gold despite going 1-for-4 in Friday’s 30-3 beatdown over the Edmonton Elks at IG Field.
“It’s grace, man. It’s definitely not something that happens often, if at all,” Mourtada told reporters on Tuesday as he sat down and answered questions for nearly 15 minutes on Zoom.
“That’s just something I’m thankful for and I want to take advantage of that opportunity. That’s not given to everybody and I know that. Now I gotta do what I have to do to make sure I do my part for the team and show that it’s the right choice to make.”
In Mourtada’s CFL debut in Week 7 in Edmonton, he went 0-for-3 with his misses coming from 28, 51, and 44 yards away. He responded by going 3-for-3 against the B.C. Lions the following week, but his longest make was a 29-yarder. On Friday, Mourtada connected on an easy one from 24 yards out and missed from 41, 47, and 46 yards.
His kicking percentages aren’t pretty, but Mourtada feels like he’s a minor correction or two away from regaining the trust of everyone in Bomberland.
“That’s the most frustrating part. I understand it being frustrating for the Bomber fans as well. They’re passionate fans and that’s what makes this place so great is that fan base… The frustrating part on my end is I feel like I’m hitting it very, very clean and they’re staying on that line the entire time. That’s why I know that change can happen pretty quick and I believe I can make that change,” Mourtada said.
Head coach Mike O’Shea feels the same way. O’Shea and Mourtada spent some time watching film together the other day and talked about how they can get the kicker back on track.
“The thing I’ve remarked about him from the time we’ve worked him out is he hits the same ball every time in terms of how he strikes it, how clean the ball flies,” said O’Shea. “The ball flight is the same every time. There’s no hook, there’s no slice, there’s no duff… there’s none of those inconsistencies you see sometimes from other kickers. He kicks the same ball pretty well dead-straight every time. Now he needs to work on his angles and the hashes and that’s what he’s focused on, reaffirming the view from the different hashes and the different angles. It is a process, but I see a guy very committed to the process.”
Mourtada has been solid on extra points at 9-for-10, but his lone miss came Friday, leading to a roar of boos from a frustrated crowd. If those boos don’t turn to cheers soon, the Bombers could look to make a move before the CFL trade deadline on Oct. 27.
“Obviously, that’s an experience not a lot of people get to have in life: a crowd full of people booing them. That’s something I’ll remember for the rest of my life, but I’ll grow from that,” Mourtada said.
“It comes with the territory and I knew that coming in… With the good comes the bad and I just got to work through it and take the next step forward and realize that happens because they’re so passionate, because they love this game, because they love this team.”
TREVOR HARRIS BENCHED
ICYMI: Edmonton Elks head coach Jaime Elizondo announced on Monday that veteran quarterback Trevor Harris is heading to the bench. Harris isn’t expected to dress on Friday at home against Winnipeg as the Elks are turning to CFL newcomer Taylor Corenlius to stop their four-game losing skid. Dakota Prukop will serve as backup.
Eighteen years old and still in high school, Taylor got his start with the Free Press on June 1, 2011. Well, sort of.
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