There were some tears on the Hamilton Tiger-Cats’ practice field on Wednesday afternoon.
Brandon Banks Jr., the eight-year-old namesake of the Ticats receiver, is heading back to his full-time home the United States after spending several weeks with his father in Hamilton. “Lil’ Speedy” was a fixture at practice, helping to shag balls, hand out water bottles and generally having about as much fun as a kid can have.
But when it was time for him and his dad to begin the journey home — they left about halfway through practice — there were some tears, plenty of hugs and heartfelt goodbyes as the whole defence paused their session to give him a send-off.
“He was having fun and got to be around his dad, who’s a superstar. It’s cool as hell,” said linebacker Simoni Lawrence. “Any time you get to do something that helps your teammate feel more comfortable in life, it’s good.”
Head coach June Jones, who has also allowed Nikita Whitlock’s son to help at practice, says he enjoys having kids around the club.
“It’s very important for those little guys. They’ll never forget that,” Jones said. “It’s all part of being a team.”
While Banks may have left practice early, he looked good enough in the early going that Jones says he may be ready to play Friday after dealing with a knee issue that kept him out of the first couple of days.
“His leg looks like it’s good to go,” Jones said. “I expect he’ll be able to play, so we have some decisions to make.”
With Terrence Toliver and Luke Tasker also set to return to the lineup that already includes Jalen Saunders, Rashad Lawrence, the recently-acquired Chris Williams and Canadian Mike Jones, the Ticats now have a glut of receivers.
The Ticats could unleash an all-American lineup that features five former 1,000-yard receivers — Banks, Tasker, Saunders, Williams and Toliver have all done it — but would have to make a ratio change elsewhere to make it happen (likely by using Canadian Mercer Timmis at running back.)
But there are other lineup and salary-cap implications to consider.
“We have some different ways we can go,” Jones said. “We’re going to total up how many plays everybody would be on the field.”
If Jones sticks with an American running back, it’s likely to be Alex Green, who is set to come off the six-game injured list after breaking his hand in the pre-season. He’ll replace John White, who has started the last three games, carrying the ball for 89 yards on 22 carries and a touchdown.
Jones said White has done everything he’s been asked to do, but Green has a little more experience in the offence. Allowing Green to return to the lineup falls in line with his commitment that players do not lose their jobs due to injury.
“What I do and what I saw have to be the same, otherwise I get compromised,” Jones said.