Cromartie back to lend Ottawa a hand

BARRE CAMPBELL -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 8:09 AM ET

Keaton Cromartie stood on the south sideline of Frank Clair Stadium yesterday, braving the howling wind.

And he was smiling, the last thing you'd expect on the face of a man who's had a trying year -- on and off the field.

The fourth-year Renegades defensive stalwart began the season as the club's starting middle linebacker after a strong training camp, but blew out the ACL in his left knee during a July home game against Edmonton.

That required season-ending surgery in August.

Then, in late August, Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana and Mississippi.

The new home he and wife Cherrell bought in New Orleans was destroyed by the storm.

Cromartie returned to Ottawa on Tuesday and spent parts of yesterday telling coaches and teammates about how the couch in his living room floated on six feet of floodwater from the front of his house to the very back.

He also spoke about how he was fortunate that his football memorabilia had been spared because it wasn't moved from his previous home.

But there he was yesterday, grinning from ear to ear, joking and lending his support to the Renegades as they head into the final two games of the regular season.

For Cromartie, it's all a matter of perspective after enduring the death of his mother last year.

"Everything's not a big deal, really. Actually, the most devastating loss I had was last year when I lost my mother," he said.

"So to me, everything really just doesn't bother me. I just look at the bright side and try to figure out what I can do to fix the problems."

With the knee, Cromartie tries to stay positive by thinking about other players like Buffalo Bills running back Willis McGahee. who recovered from a severe knee injury to return to the field.

"He tore all four of his ligaments and ended up (coming back and rushing for more than 1,100 yards)," said Cromartie.

For the Renegades, just having him around is important in itself.

Coach Joe Paopao said Cromartie's positive outlook on his situation and his support for the team could help the Renegades stay loose heading into Saturday's must-win game vs. Montreal.

"He didn't need to come back, but he wanted to come back and be here for the next couple of weeks for us, and hopefully for the next weeks to come," said Paopao.

Following his surgery, Cromartie said he followed the Renegades on the Internet and watched a couple of games that were available on satellite TV.

barre.campbell@ott.sunpub.com


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