If Kenny Shaw is just the tonic the Ottawa REDBLACKS have been craving, if he is dropping into the lineup just in time to be the catalyst the struggling team needs, well, he has already rehearsed making a grand entrance of that sort after spending a portion of his rehab time doing a little zip-lining.
“You’re probably the first to know that I did that,” the speedy receiver says after finishing up what he believed was a splendid day of practice on Tuesday.
His surgically repaired foot was fine at the time of his adventure, Shaw insists, lest you get the idea he was playing it fancy-free with that injury. Not like he was descending at top speed and preparing for a thud while wearing a walking boot or anything. It’s just that after spending weeks in a state of limited motion, a little zip-lining helped keep him sane once the foot was strong and he was mobile.
“It came down to a time that I knew my foot was really alright and I knew I could do that much,” he says.
Shaw is feeling fit and feisty for some action and he is about to get it on Friday night, in Hamilton, when the REDBLACKS and Tiger-Cats – both currently languishing at the bottom of the East Division – wage a battle over who gets some positive momentum and who remains looking for answers to frustrating questions. The Ticats, at 0-7, are the more desperate.
The REDBLACKS, at 1-6-1, are only slightly better off.
Getting Shaw back in the line-up will be a boon for the Ottawa offence.
His speed, shiftiness and sure hands are already CFL-proven after a thousand yard season with the Toronto Argonauts in 2016.
He believes he will be a reasonable facsimile of his usual self on Friday night, feeling buoyant after that Tuesday workout, where he’d been asked to stretch things downfield, the REDBLACK offence working a lot on second-and-long situations.
“It’s even shocking me,” says Shaw, reflecting on how good his foot was feeling after all those deep patterns in practice. “It’s goin’ right now and hopefully I will keep it that way so I can showcase my talents.”
Signed by the REDBLACKS as a free agent last February, Shaw and his talents were thought of as just about the perfect hedge against any questions Ottawa management may have had about incumbent burner Chris Williams and his recovery from a knee injury, suffered the previous October. The REDBLACKS signed Shaw and another Argos free agent receiver, Diontae Spencer, opting to let Williams test the market, which he did, signing with the BC Lions a few days later.
A bit of irony, then, that Williams saw regular season action before Shaw, even though it was known Williams would have to miss the first third of the season while rehabbing his knee.
That would not have happened had Shaw not suffered his injury during pre-game routines for the season opener against Calgary, back in June.
“Something didn’t feel right,” says Shaw, recounting the moment when he planted his left foot on the TD Place turf while making a pattern cut. “Just a slight little fracture, one of those freak accidents, just warming up.”
It may have been a “little fracture,” as Shaw terms it but it did require corrective surgery, which the 25-year-old native of Orlando, Florida, underwent five days later. Then came a walking boot and a slow recovery, including some tentative first steps in the pool after he’d had the stitches removed.
“The doctor gave me a game plan but I just had to mentally prepare myself to do it,” says Shaw, whose frustration was multiplied considering he’d missed part of training camp with a hamstring injury.
“But the guys were all positive with me,” he says of his Ottawa teammates, pointing out that they all kept reminding him to be patient.
There was an upside to all the down time, though. “It did give me a lot of free time to check out Ottawa,” says Shaw who eventually went hiking (and zip-lining) in nearby Gatineau Park. He also got to be known as a regular at the dining establishments in Ottawa’s famed ByWard Market.
“Ottawa’s known for the amount of restaurants and patios they have, so I was definitely eating out a lot which tested my budget,” chuckles Shaw. “The people who work in The Market would probably say they saw me three times a week.”
Kenny Shaw is set to make his Ottawa REDBLACKS debut this week in Hamilton against the Tiger-Cats (Chris Hofley/OttawaREDBLACKS.com)
Any University of Ottawa or Carleton student would be able to tell you that you can’t spend all your time in The Market, much as you might like to and Shaw can tell you the same thing. A lot of his so-called down time was spent poring over game plans and pass route combinations and staying connected with his teammates, helping them to process the misery of the slow start to their season as well as giving them support.
“That’s all I could provide, when I was out these six weeks,” says Shaw. “Some people, they hang it up when they’re injured but I stayed with the team (emotionally).”
Now, after his successful deep-pattern speed tests on day two of practice, Shaw is finally poised to bring the REDBLACKS the tangible benefits they’d been counting on having all along.
We’ll see at least a glimpse of that on Friday night but REDBLACKS fans might want to be cautious about expectations. Shaw is healed and ready to go, but most football players need a game or two of real action in order to fill up their cardio tanks.
“The first practice back was hell,” Shaw admits, referring to conditioning and timing. “That’s the biggest thing. Getting back in game shape.”
Now that he’s back and ready to hit the Ottawa huddle, Shaw hopes that the addition of his talents will provide his team with the ingredient needed to turn the corner.
“(It) makes the coaches realize we might be down right now but we’ve got some more options,” he says, noting that he believes the REDBLACKS aren’t so far off from a winning streak.
Much like a zip-lining adventure can provide a different view of the valley below, Shaw’s injury gave him an at-length perspective on what’s been keeping his team on the wrong side of the scoreboard in so many close games. What he’s seen doesn’t have him worried.
“It’s not much,” he says, insisting that the REDBLACKS are on the verge. “We just wanna play our way. No one’s panicking and we’re all still together as a team and we’re gonna handle it.
“I don’t think anyone should count us out.”
Especially not when Kenny Shaw is just now dropping in to do his thing.