They just want to keep a good thing going. The Winnipeg Blue Bombers were so pleased with what Keith Stokes added to their attack last week that they rushed out to get someone capable of doing the same things to replace the injured kick returner/running back/receiver.
"I'm a kick returner-slash-running back-slash-wide receiver coming out of the backfield catching some passes," Hugh (Slash) Smith said before his first practice with the Bombers yesterday. "I'm ready, I'm anxious to get out there and help the team out. They're on the run right now to try to make the playoffs and I feel like I can come in and help them out."
Stokes suffered an ankle sprain to his left foot during the game against Saskatchewan on Sunday and is unlikely to dress for this Saturday's match versus Toronto. And Bomber head coach Jim Daley indicated that there is a good chance that Smith will replace Stokes this week.
"We will look at him as a returner and running back or returner/receiver right away and see how he fits in," Daley said. "We are concerned about the loss of Keith -- if he does not play this week, which is unlikely. So, we want to make sure we have a return game and a backup running back. Since he's played running back (in college), he could at least give us that emergency situation if (tailback) Charlie (Roberts) got a nick, right?"
The 5-foot-8, 165-pound South Florida product has been with both Cleveland and Baltimore of the NFL.
"I was starting in Baltimore as a kick returner/punt returner and I separated my shoulder, and that kept me out for the rest of the season," Smith said. "Then I signed with Cleveland (Feb., 2004) and they allocated me to NFL Europe (Cologne). Then, something happened with my Europe team and Cleveland released me. But everything happens for a reason and I'm here for a reason and that's to play for Winnipeg.
"I'm just happy to be here and I'm anxious to play."
Smith, 25, has been clocked at 4.3 in the 40 but admits that he knows little about the Canadian game.
"I just know that a lot of guys can get in motion at one time and it's all about passing," he said. "So, I'm looking forward to it. I'm a receiver and I'm here to make some plays for the team. It's a different game but I feel that I can adjust to it real fast."
But Smith is aware that there is no fair catch rule in the CFL.
"But they've got to give you five yards, though so that's good," he said. "I'm ready, I'm ready. I'm going to come in and try to take the slack from (Stokes) and hopefully, he gets well soon. But while he's out, I'll try to help the team out to the best of my ability."
Stokes did not practise yesterday.
"It's an ankle sprain and sometimes, those things take time to recover from," Daley said.
If Hugh Smith is found to be wanting, Daley would then use wide receiver Derrick Smith as a punt returner.
"We would use (Roberts) only if we had to because we want to keep him fresh for offence," he said.
Import wide receiver Robert Gordon, a healthy scratch last week, can also return kicks, Daley added.