'I feel I can get the job done'

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 10:44 AM ET

Hank Ilesic is still alive and kicking.

As the Renegades wrapped up their first formal practice in more than a week yesterday at the University of Ottawa, the 45-year-old free agent punter didn't look out of place as he hammered the football down the field.

This isn't a misprint. With punter Pat Fleming and kicker Matt Kellett sidelined by injuries, Gades' coach Joe Paopao confirmed Ilesic could suit up for the club Friday against the Montreal Alouettes at Molson Stadium.

"I feel like I can get the job done. That's why I'm here," said Ilesic. "I'm in great shape and I feel like I can still contribute."

Owner of his own Toronto-based marketing firm, the legendary Ilesic hasn't seen live action since he booted for the Edmonton Eskimos during one of his many comebacks in 2001.

Ilesic, who will turn 46 on Sept. 7 and is believed to have made four comebacks since he first retired following the 1993 season, has been kicking once a week recreationally at a park near his home in Toronto.

Why?

"Because I still enjoy it," said Ilesic.

So, how did he look on his first day?

"I would say rusty," said Paopao following the 75-minute workout. "That's no disrespect to Hank Ilesic. You've got to give him the benefit of the doubt. He's been just sort of kicking at a park near his house. This is something that's going to be different.

"I didn't want him kicking out his leg on the first day. We're going to give everybody (today) off and then we will see how he does at practice (tomorrow) and through the rest of the week. Then we'll make a decision. He's in great shape and I've been through this with him before. I was in B.C. in 1999 when we lost Lui Passaglia and (Ilesic) came in to do the job for us. We've had a lot of calls. I know one thing we've got with him is experience and that means a lot."

RETURN DOUBTFUL

If Kellett somehow is ready to return from a groin injury, it's almost a certainty he would handle all the duties. But that's doubtful, and a broken thumb won't allow Fleming to catch the ball for punts or hold for field goals.

"What they're going to do is leave the cast on for two or three weeks and then take the pins out," said Fleming. "Then what I'm hoping is they'll be able to put a soft cast on ... (a month) is probably the best-case scenario. I'm not going to be ready this week. That's just not going to happen for me."

Ilesic is willing to fill in for as long as it takes Fleming to heal.

"I'm the boss. I'm here to help get the job done and when Pat Fleming is ready, I'll be finished here," said Ilesic. "We'll see what happens. Whether I play or not is going to be up to the coaching staff.

"This is a challenge for me. The opportunity came up and I liked the idea of facing this kind of challenge. You don't forget how to kick ... especially me because I've done it for so many years."

bruce.garrioch@ott.sunpub.com


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