Brandon Banks returns to Ticats, eyes 2015 Grey Cup title

Brandon Banks has the 2015 Grey Cup squarely in his sights. The elusive kick-returner/receiver met with reporters Friday, a day after signing a three-year contract extension with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

Wants to avenge 2014 Grey Cup loss to Stampeders

Brandon Banks will return to the Hamilton Ticats for the next season in an attempt to bring a Grey Cup title to the city after the bitter loss to the Stampeders last season. (Darren Calabrese/The Canadian Press)

Brandon Banks has the 2015 Grey Cup squarely in his sights.

The elusive kick-returner/receiver met with reporters Friday, a day after signing a three-year contract extension with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Banks was slated to become a free agent Tuesday.

The five-foot-five 153-pound Banks — aptly nicknamed "Speedy" — said his primary reason for returning to Hamilton was to avenge last year's 20-16 Grey Cup loss to Calgary. Banks appeared to put the Ticats ahead on an electrifying 90-yard punt return TD with 35 seconds left but it was negated by a penalty, allowing the Stampeders to hold on for the win at B.C. Place Stadium.

"We came up short so we have some unfinished business," Banks said in a telephone interview. "That's pretty much the drive behind returning here.

"I feel like we've started something and we want to finish it."

The penalty call crushed Banks, who fell to his knees and pounded the turf repeatedly with his fists. Afterwards, he bolted from Hamilton's dressing room without speaking.

"I'm definitely over it," Banks said. "It's always going to be in the back of my mind but it is what it is.

"I feel like I've got another opportunity to bring a Cup to the city."

On Friday, Hamilton signed linebacker Taylor Reed and defensive lineman Antonio Coleman to extensions. Reed was the player flagged for an illegal block on the Banks return.

Banks decides against return to NFL

Banks said he had two offers to return to the NFL — he spent three seasons with the Washington Redskins before coming to Hamilton in 2013 — but both were short-term deals with no guaranteed money. So had he gone to training camp and been cut, he would have lost a half-season of earning power in the CFL.

"Even if I hit free agency, my mindset was always that I'd be in Hamilton because it's the best situation for me and my family," he said. "I had pretty much everything already established here and I love coach Kent (Ticats coach/GM Kent Austin).

"I didn't really care about how much money I was worth, I was just worried about what was the best situation and being happy. I have some stability here."

Banks factored heavily in Hamilton appearing in its second straight Grey Cup game last year. He led the CFL in combined yards (1,968) and punt return yards (618) and was third in kick-return yards (701) en route to being named a league all-star.

Banks had a CFL playoff-record 226 punt return yards in Hamilton's 40-24 East Division final win over Montreal. He also tied a league mark with two punt return TDs in a post-season game.

"He's one of the premiere playmakers in this league, he's a game-changer," Austin told reporters. "As a football player, the lowest common denominator is the ability to make plays and he's got that in spades.

"Brandon is, I think, in a league by himself with his talent."

Banks also had 42 catches for 529 yards and tied for the team lead with five receiving TDs despite appearing in about a third of Hamilton's offensive plays. The challenge facing Austin is getting Banks into the offence as much as possible without negatively impacting his return ability.

"You've got to be careful in an 18-game season," he said. "We need his return game to be at the top of his ability so we tried to pace him and not wear him out too much offensively.

"I think it worked out well for us because he gets in a game, he produces. It wasn't really a very hard decision for us. We need to keep that element, both on special teams and on offence."

Big-play receiver

Banks, a 27-year-old native of Garner, N.C., wants to show he can also be a big-play receiver.

"Everyone says I'm a return specialist but I want to get away from that," he said. "I want to try to be an elite wide receiver.

"I can definitely improve upon my route-running and catching the ball and being in the spaces the quarterback wants me to be in."

Although there was little doubt in Banks's mind he wanted to return to Hamilton, he's relieved knowing where he'll be for the next three seasons.

"It (impending free agency) wasn't a bad experience, it was a good experience," he said. "But it's a relief to know I'm going to be here at least three years so I can focus on being a better professional athlete."


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