Jonathan HEFNEY strolled through the doors at the international-flight arrivals and smack dab into a wall of TV cameras and flashing bulbs, reporters and Winnipeg Blue Bomber staff.
Oh, and there were also a handful of bystanders who wondered aloud: 'What's the big deal here?' And, 'Who is that guy?'
'That guy' is last year's East Division Most Outstanding Rookie, a talented multi-tool player whose energetic approach to the game can be infectious. And when a club is struggling at 3-9, has lost six of its last seven, is down a man in the secondary and is in desperate need of any kind of boost, his return is met with the kind of fanfare normally reserved for quarterbacks.
Or whack jobs like Onterrio Smith.
"This feels pretty good," began Hefney. "I'm just ready to get started. I've been sitting out and I'm ready to get it going. I watched the last (Bomber game) on TV in Detroit... I watched it and got a little mad."
Hefney's arrival couldn't be more timely for the Bombers. With LaVar Glover out for a couple-three weeks with a groin pull and Deon Beasley absent from Tuesday's practice (he returned home for a family function but is expected back), a pass defence that was lit up for five TDs and 477 yards passing by Montreal Alouette quarterback Anthony Calvillo last week could obviously use some help.
Head coach Paul LaPolice wouldn't immediately commit to inserting Hefney into the starting lineup -- he may suit up first as the nickel back (extra defensive back in passing situations) -- until he gets a long look at him in practice, beginning Wednesday.
But the player they get back from the Detroit Lions is insisting he's better for his NFL experience.
"It was positive. I learned a lot. I got a whole lot better," Hefney said. "I'm just trying to put it toward the CFL right now.
"I took a lot of turns at safety (at Lions' camp) but towards the end I played a lot of corner. And running with (Detroit receiver) Calvin Johnson... honestly, I feel like nobody can run past me now. Running with Calving Johnson... it's like you're chasing a car."
Hefney danced around a question about signing a contract extension with the Bombers. A CFL source said he got some added cash from the organization but has not re-signed and could become a free agent at season's end. The club is willing to give him a raise, providing he sign a longer-term deal, but all the advice he is currently getting points toward Hefney honouring his current deal that takes him through the final six games of this season.
"I was playing the role of his agent," said cornerback Jovon Johnson, Hefney's closest friend in the Bomber locker-room.
"We talked about different observations we had, the different situations that are out there, and I just told him to play his option out and go from there -- that way you can be a free agent for both leagues. If you want to explore the NFL you can do that, or if you want to re-sign in the CFL. Being a complete free agent, at this point of his career, it gives him better opportunities."
Regardless of his contract status, the Bombers have their fingers crossed welcoming back a familiar face will help in the critical home-and-home series coming up with the B.C. Lions who are 4-8 and hold the CFL's last playoff spot.
"I'm just here to help win these two games coming up," Hefney said. "From what I heard, we've got to win these two games and we play Saturday and if I'm in there I'm going hard for the team because I want to win. I hate losing."
THIRD AND INCHES: QB Steven Jyles (illness) and DB Deon Beasley (personal) missed practice Tuesday ...The Lions announced that QB Travis Lulay will get the start against the Bombers.
SELF REFLECTION: LaPolice, in an attempt to get his players to turn the page on the officiating controversy from Friday's 44-40 loss to Montreal, addressed the situation in the locker room this way:
"I said to them, 'The people who are responsible are right outside the door,' and I said 'Let's bring them in,'" the coach told reporters. "I brought in a mirror. I put it in front of them all. I said 'We are responsible for what happens and the only (people) who are going to change it is you."
The Bombers expect to hear about possible monetary punishment regarding comments made about the officiating following Friday's game today.
-- with files from Adam Wazny