After a bye week, the Renegades said hello to a large number of new and some old, unexpected faces at practice yesterday.
Practising with the club yesterday were new kicker Brian Holmes and defensive back Korey Banks.
Trying to battle back from injuries were defensive backs Shawn Gallant, Byron Capers, Bo Rogers and Dave Donaldson, quarterback Brad Banks, defensive lineman John Turntine and receiver Pat Woodcock.
"The week off really helped us," said Renegades coach Joe Paopao.
The strong turnout at practice and at least the possibility of some guys returning for Saturday's game here against the Saskatchewan Roughriders is the first bit of good news the Renegades have had in a while.
Holmes is here to take over from Sandro Sciortino, who is at home in Markham recovering from surgery to treat testicular cancer last week.
The 26-year-old Holmes looked good in practice yesterday, at one point hitting three straight 47-yard field goals.
"For the most part, he was pretty steady, not bad," said Paopao.
Holmes was in the camp of the B.C. Lions earlier this year and has had tryouts with Atlanta and Tennessee in the NFL.
"I'm sorry about the circumstances I'm coming in under, but I feel like I'm ready to play," said Holmes, who spent last year kicking for the Scottish Claymores in NFL Europe. "I hate seeing Sandro having to go through something like he's going through. But whether it's an opportunity to play the first game or the 15th game, it's the same opportunity."
Like a lot of players in his situation, Holmes is working to keep his dream alive. He has a journalism degree and has interned at Sports Illustrated and worked in the sports department of the Birmingham News. He has worked as a substitute teacher and personal trainer and has started a business with a partner in what he described as a "computer and film- based personal development business."
When asked what his long-term ambition was, he replied: "My girlfriend would like a definition of that as well," drawing a chuckle from his audience.
"It's kicking," he said.
It was cold and windy at practice yesterday and the weather is only going to get worse from here on in, but Holmes, a native of steamy Georgia, said he's not worried.
"I've kicked in Scotland in early spring. That's no joke," he said. "That was a good learning experience for a guy from Atlanta. Can you get worse than Scotland in early spring? Maybe Saskatchewan? If you can kick in Scotland in early spring, you can kick pretty much anywhere."
Korey Banks, Brad's cousin, has an outside shot at playing this weekend, depending on the health of the walking wounded. Paopao said he planned to look at tape of yesterday's practice with his staff and evaluate Banks. Rogers practised with a soft cast on his broken right wrist.
How's the battered secondary going to look come Saturday?
"That's a good question," said Paopao. "We'll have to wait and see who's available. Capers practised some, too. Donaldson is as healthy as he's going to get and (George) McCullough looked decent. We'll see."