Shannon Garrett's mind is squarely focused on football.
It's a nice change after everything the Edmonton Eskimos veteran has gone through in the past year.
Garrett lost nearly all of his possessions at his home in Bay St. Louis, Missouri, in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina - football keepsakes, personal mementoes and a rental property that was a key source of off-season income.
Even the bank he works for lost four branches. The only things left standing were the vaults.
Garrett has since been embroiled in struggles over mortgage and insurance issues.
After returning to Edmonton for training camp, he's in for another battle.
"The only thing I have to worry about right now is the football team and what I can do on the football field," said Garrett after Day 2 of the Eskimos' training camp at Clarke Park. "If I make or don't make the team, the mortgage is still going to be there. I'll worry about the hurricane later."
It's a smart move considering the position Garrett is in. He is attempting to fill the fifth defensive back/outside linebacker spot that was left vacant when Steven Marsh suffered a potentially season-ending torn ACL. There are three other candidates for that job - former Cincinnati Bengal Reggie Myles, second-year man Gerald Dixon and James Whitley, who has CFL experience with both Montreal and B.C.
If Garrett is beaten out, he'll be in tough to get his old halfback job back as Donnie Brady and Reggie Durden, who was picked up from Montreal in the Davis Sanchez trade, are virtual locks.
"There's no guaranteed jobs out here so I've got to fight for a job," noted Garrett. "The last couple of years there's been a fight for a job. The older you get you've got to fight for a job. We're stacked everywhere.
"It's going to be difficult for me, but I've been around. I think I can play linebacker, I can play corner and I can play halfback so hopefully my knowledge of the game will help me when the coach has to make his decision."
Garrett didn't deny that the returning to the Esks was an important step to recovering some of the financial losses he suffered during the hurricane. The 34-year-old was given a grace period on the mortgage of his triplex, but after five months he was back to paying $800 per month on what is now a pile of dirt.
"It's going to take five, six years for everything to be back to normal, if it can look normal," said Garrett. "People are rebuilding slowly, but it's out of their own pocket because not many insurance companies are paying any kind of flood damage at all."
Garrett says being part of a team that has a legitimate shot at repeating as Grey Cup champions was an even bigger incentive to put off retirement. After a good long look during the Eskimos' two pre-season games, it will come down to the impression Garrett leaves with Danny Maciocia.
"He understands exactly what the position requires and he's done a good job to date," said the Esks' head coach, who couldn't overstate the loss of Marsh's presence in the heart of the defence.
"Who will have a good understanding of how big of a loss he is are the guys who had to play against him. The other seven teams will understand that us not having Steven here is a significant loss."