How satisfying you find Brandon Banks’ explanation for his absence likely depends on just how nosy you want to be.
Banks was on the field for the first time on Monday after missing the first two weeks of Hamilton Tiger-Cats training camp for what the team had called “family issues.” Banks wasn’t much more expansive when he met with the media after practice.
“Been at home. Just taking care of some family issues. I’m here now focused on football,” he said.
That last bit about “focused on football” is a euphemism for ‘I’m not really going to talk about this.’ Whether on or off the record, Banks isn’t interested in shedding much light on what kept him away from the team.
Does it really matter? There’s a solid case that it doesn’t.
From a football perspective, missing two weeks of training camp isn’t helpful but given Banks’ role on this club, it’s hardly catastrophic. He is a situational player on offence with a package of plays suited to his skill set and, after two-plus seasons as a Ticat, he’s familiar with various concepts involved.
His main contribution comes on special teams where he must a) make opponents miss and b) run fast. Both history and hardware — he’s the reigning CFL Most Outstanding Special Teams Player — indicates he knows how to do both of those things pretty well already.
It’s unlikely he would have played in Saturday’s pre-season loss in Toronto when the Ticats sat out more than a half dozen veteran starters. He’ll probably dress for Friday’s exhibition tilt at Tim Hortons Field against Ottawa and he’ll certainly be ready for the season and home openers: ticket buyers who coughed up expecting to see Speedy do his thing will get full value for their dollar.
Nor did his absence create any issues in the locker-room. Players are conditioned to focus on the things they can control and that includes paying no mind to teammates who can’t contribute, no matter the reason why. Even players who hold out — and this was true in the Chris Williams situation a few years ago — are usually supported by their peers. Nobody resents another guy doing what he has to do to handle his business.
It helps that Banks is a popular guy in the room, known for his excellent play and inherent toughness. When you’re five-foot-seven and 153 pounds soaking wet but return footballs with the recklessness he does, it earns respect. He’s also got a legit set of NFL bona fides — he played 41 games with the Washington Redskins — and still behaves as if winning a Grey Cup is the most important thing in the football universe.
But in an age when it’s possible to be famous just for being famous and with social media creating an artificial window into the lives of athletes and celebrities, there is a certain desire to find out all the dirty details. Whether the media plays a role in this or simply feeds the insatiable public appetite — and the Banks saga generated some serious online eyeballs — is a discussion for a different forum.
What Banks is offering by way of explanation won’t satisfy everyone but, for now anyway, it’s all there is. My only quibble with it is that leaves the impression that the situation was entirely beyond his control and I’m not convinced that’s entirely true. Again, how much does that really matter?
The only way his absence becomes an issue going forward is if he doesn’t play well to start the season, in which case it will pointed to — fairly or not — as a possible reason why. Otherwise, it looks like everyone is keen to move forward.
Speedy’s back. That’s really all you need to know.