'Gades have eyes on Katrina

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 8:43 AM ET

Supposedly fresh off their first bye week of the season, it was business as unusual for the Renegades yesterday.

Before their first full practice at the University of Ottawa (where they will be again today while workers piece together the upheaval left by a Rolling Stones concert at Frank Clair Stadium), the players were told to forget protocol and keep their cellphones on during team meetings.

After the workout, they huddled together as one for a team prayer at the suggestion of coach Joe Paopao. "That's the first time I've ever done that after a practice," he said later.

The reasons had nothing to do with their remaining nine games, the tenuous hold on second place or the upcoming showdown with the Montreal Alouettes Friday.

No, the phone rule was changed and the call above placed in response to personal rather than professional matters.

The fathers of two Ottawa players are ill, one in grave condition after a surgery Paopao is all too remorsefully familiar with. It is similar to the procedure a brother of his had before he died.

The Renegades also prayed for the victims of Hurricane Katrina, a storm that has touched a handful of the players and had them glued to the Weather Network.

Middle linebacker Keaton Cromartie, who is out for the season despite successful surgery on his left knee Aug. 18, will join his wife in Atlanta later this week. She and her family are there after fleeing from their new home in New Orleans east, a below-sea-level area Katrina hit hard.

"We're just hoping the house didn't get flooded," said Cromartie. "My wife was watching CNN and saw people standing on rooftops about three miles from where I live."

Linebacker Kyries Hebert's family is located 100 miles west of New Orleans, where there was less damage but a scare nonetheless.

"I have a home in Houston that my mom can drive to if she needs a good evacuation plan," said Hebert. "I just pray that everyone's okay. My family is my teammates family ... I hope they're all right."

JOSEPH RELIEVED

Quarterback Kerry Joseph also lives in New Orleans during the offseason and visited his home on the break. He was somewhat relieved that the storm turned east, away from the city, but is still concerned about friends he can't contact because the phone lines down.

"I've been watching (Katrina coverage) on TV all morning," said Joseph. "It's pretty scary ... I feel for the people now in Mississippi and Alabama. It's God's work. We've got to pray for everybody."

As for the things he can control, Joseph says he's ready for the second half of the Renegades season.

"The break gave us a a chance to relax," he said. "I feel rejuvenated."


Videos

Photos