Time, and all breathing, stopped for a short time at the Hamilton Tiger-Cats Thursday practice, and not because of the heat and humidity.
Brandon Banks, the Cats’ big game-breaker, came down hard on his right shoulder and came up from the steaming turf at Tim Hortons Field clearly in pain and gingerly supporting his right arm with his left hand.
But it was soon discovered that he had full motion in his shoulder cavity and arm and had suffered a ‘stinger’.
Then you could feel the only breeze of the entire day: the Cats and the dozen or so fans watching practice all exhaling.
Even Banks thought he might be joining the club’s swelling injury ranks.
“For the first moment I thought it was over,” conceded Banks, who has returned two punts for touchdowns this season and had another couple called back. “I thought my shoulder was out of place. But then I realized what it was. Once I had all the rotation, it was good.
“I just got a stinger. It’s gone away now. It scared me for a second the way I fell so hard. We don’t need another guy on our team to go down.”
Surprisingly Cat coaches, being objective and perhaps always thinking one preparatory minute ahead of the moment, didn’t panic even in the initial minutes, when it appeared Banks might be in serious injury difficulty.
“He’s all right,” said head coach Kent Austin. “Around here I’ve learned to just relax and…wait. All guys respond differently to little boo-boos.”
Special teams coordinator Jeff Reinebold, although briefly concerned, took it all in stride. He pointed out that Banks is a special player but also casually mentioned that the Cats have had four different players return kicks or punts for touchdowns in less than two seasons and two of them (Terrell Sinkfield and Quincy McDuffie) are still here.
Reinebold praised the Cats’ football department for signing a plethora of great returners and Thursday they added another in wide receiver and returner Kealoha Pilares. He returned a kickoff 101 yards for a touchdown for the Carolina Panthers against the Detroit Lions in late 2011. He missed the 2013 NFL season with an injury and was cut late last summer.
Reinebold knew of Pilares when he was a Hawaii high school student, but Pilares chose Air Force Academy over the University of Hawaii where Reinebold coached defensive line and special teams. But Pilares soon transferred to Hawaii and was a huge part of its 12-0 Sugar Bowl team.
Pilares and third-string Cats quarterback Jeremiah Masoli played against each other in Hawaii high school football and were out late after practice throwing the ball to each other.
Last year, Brian Simmons was a CFL East Division all-star last year, despite changing from his normal left tackle spot to right guard.
But after losing his starting and game-roster positions this season, his fifth with the Ticats, he was traded Thursday afternoon to the Edmonton Eskimos for a seventh round pick in the 2017 CFL draft.
Simmons could not get into the lineup as the Cats decided to go with three “National” players in the middle of the offensive line and “Internationals” Jake Olson at left tackle and Jeremy Lewis at right tackle. The Cats also ranked injured Joel Figueroa ahead of Simmons this year.
“It was a situation where he was down our depth chart and the other guys were playing pretty well,” Austin said of the personable and extremely popular Simmons. “Figs is back close to being healthy again.
“It’s good for (Simmons), he’s going to a good football team. We love Brian, he knows that. It’s something we needed to do here, and it will be really good for Brian.
“He did some really good things here and we’re unbelievably appreciative. We have nothing but great things to say about him.”
NOTES: The Toronto Argonauts took Ricky Ray off the six-game injured list Thursday and the star quarterback took part in practice for the first time all season. Head coach Scott Milanovich said Trevor Harris is still the No. 1 quarterback, but that Ray would probably dress as No. 3 pivot for the Labour Day Classic… Kent Austin said he doesn’t know if Peter Dyakowski, who hasn’t taken part in full practice this week, will be available for Monday’s game against the Argos. “We’re just trying to find 21,” Austin says of the number of Canadian players required for a game-day roster. “21 that make sense, not just to have 21 players.” The Cats have been hit particularly hard by injuries to National players.