Four Blue Bombers met the media on Thursday, three new players and one familiar one lined up in a row, faces on which the franchise has staked its 2014 hopes.
Then they opened the press conference up to questions and, well -- welcome, Bomber fans, to the Korey Banks show.
'I'm gonna do whatever it takes. Just to let the young guys know I'm buying in. So if they see that, my ego's pushed aside, I'm pretty sure they'll do it, and that's what it's going to take. I'll do whatever'
No doubt, the new Bombers defensive back is friendly and loqacious, and once he gets rolling the words just seem to flow. He's charming, too, and alongside a younger crew including incoming pivot Drew Willy, newly acquired receiver Nick Moore and healed-up slotback Cory Watson, Banks comfortably held court. Perhaps that's a sign of the leadership the Bombers hoped he would bestow on this team.
For now, let's stick with this: Banks got his first taste of life as a Winnipeg Blue Bomber this week, and he liked it.
"It kind of reminded me of when I was a rookie in the NFL, just the atmosphere, the facilities," Banks said. "I'm really excited... it's the character, man, it's the people around. They embrace you, they make you feel like you're a part of it... it feels great, as a player, to always be wanted. And you have to pay homage to that."
This last bit is key for Banks, who is closing in on the twilight of his career: "my hourglass is turned upside down," he said later, as poetic a statement on aging as you'll ever hear from any player. Even if that sand is trickling down, Banks is certain he's got plenty in the tank. On the other hand, when Wally Buono shipped him to the Bombers, the B.C. Lions GM hinted that at 34 and a lean 5-11, Banks couldn't keep up with the CFL's resurgent running game.
"I don't want to make it against Wally, but I mean, I have to defend myself," Banks responded, jovially. "At the end of the day, if you can find the film where we played the good running backs, Sheets, Cornish and all of those, where they... had 40 or 50 yards, I can guarantee he wasn't running at me. You can clean it up that way, but I mean, business is business. I'm happy. I don't even look back. Looking back? I'll do that when my career is over with."
But if the film really is on Banks' side, then why would Buono talk about different styles?
"You know Wally," Banks said, and all but winked. "He has to be right, I guess. Even if that's his thought process, this is a passing league. Even if that is true, which I beg to differ, it's a passing league. I don't see too many teams lining up, running the ball 60 times a game. They're gonna pass it 40 though, so you pick your poison."
Soon, the Bombers will have their own game tape, their own determinations of what kind of impact Banks can make. Though he played nickel all through 2013 in Vancouver, he expects to bounce around the field a little more with the Bombers. A phone conversation with incoming defensive co-ordinator Gary Etcheverry left Banks with the impression he'd be playing "everywhere." Yes, he nodded, he liked that idea.
"I'm gonna do whatever it takes," Banks said. "Just to let the young guys know I'm buying in. So if they see that, my ego's pushed aside, I'm pretty sure they'll do it, and that's what it's going to take. I'll do whatever."
There's that leadership thing again. That willingness to do whatever it takes is part of what the Bombers craved in Banks, part of why they moved to pick him up from the Lions and then sign him on through 2015. As for Banks, after 10 years in the CFL and with a Grey Cup ring, is he ready to tie on that mentor mantle, and teach? Banks raised an eyebrow. "You want the honest answer?"
Yeah, we do.
"The honest answer is, since I've been in the league I've been teaching players," he said. "I'm the age, the veteran, the leadership and all of that. But football is what I'm here to do, and I've been doing it awhile. Ever since the B.C. Lions, I've been teaching players, because the game comes easy to me. I'm gonna be teaching until I stop, and at the end of the day, it's all about people buying in."