Aside from its final, ill-fated split second, Donnie Ruiz' 2004 season was short and very, very sweet.
But for the ACL tear he suffered against the Edmonton Eskimos, Ruiz might be the only Renegade who would like to pick up this May exactly where he left off last July.
"Frustration is not even the word," the four-year CFL veteran said yesterday of the season-ending injury. "When I hurt my knee, I felt like my heart was just crushed."
Ruiz, an original Renegade, took over at cornerback for Dave Donaldson at halftime of Game 1. He started the following week against Toronto and the next week against Edmonton -- a game that saw Ottawa improve to 3-0 but lose the 26-year-old Wilfrid Laurier product.
From there, both injuries and losses piled up on the Renegades.
Ruiz will get another shot with the Renegades in 2005 after signing a one-year deal with an option.
The Renegades also announced yesterday the signing of speedy 6-foot-4 receiver Bashir Yamini to a contract of the same length.
Yamini, 27, spent time with the NFL's Dallas Cowboys and Carolina Panthers after a college football and track career at the University of Iowa. The Renegades had a look at him late last season and were impressed.
"We liked what we saw (last year) so we felt the need to bring him back," said Chris McRobbie, the Renegades director of player personnel. "Bashir brings the size and speed we are looking for."
Ruiz brings depth and versatility, at the very least. A six-foot, 200-lb. Montreal native who broke into the league with Winnipeg in 2001, he has also played halfback and safety as a pro. He was one of only three starting Canadian corners in the CFL at the time of his injury, along with Montreal's Davis Sanchez and Hamilton's Wayne Shaw.
Sanchez, who can become a free agent Feb. 15 if the Alouettes don't re-sign him first, could attract some interest from the Renegades, as he is admired by coach/GM Joe Paopao. And with defensive co-ordinator Greg Marshall now in charge, all players will have to learn a new system as well as impress a new coach.
But Ruiz is more concerned with getting back on the field than who he might have to beat out for a job.
"There's a stereotype across the league," he said, referring to the lack of starting Canadian corners. "It was very tough to break in, but I felt I had a legitimate opportunity (at camp last season) and I took it by the horns. It was an opportunity for me to set an example for CIS athletes ... that I'm not just a Canadian but from a Canadian university ... and for me it was a big accomplishment.
"To me, I went down as a starter, and when I come back it's where I'd like to get to again ... I plan on it. But it really doesn't matter what position I play, I just have to find a spot where the coaches will feel like, 'Hey, we've got to get this kid on the field somewhere.' "