The last time we saw the Edmonton Elks on the football field was the Eastern Division Final in Edmonton against the Tiger-Cats.
The starters in the secondary on that day were Tyquwan Glass, Josh Johnson, Jordan Hoover, Brian Walker and Godfrey Onyeka. After two on-field days of training camp for the Elks, the secondary looks vastly different and is loaded with veterans: Jonathon Mincy, Trumaine Washington, Jermaine Gabriel, Aaron Grymes and Jonathon Rose.
Between the five players, they have played a combined 288 CFL games, collected four divisional All-Star selections, a CFL All-Star selection and have won three Grey Cup championships. Elks head coach Jamie Elizondo said it’s a big comfort as an offensive coach having so much experience in the secondary.
“As a play-caller but most importantly as a quarterback, it gives you tremendous confidence because you’re not afraid to make a mistake as a quarterback,” Elizondo said. “When you have a defence that is stout, firm and aggressive, you can make a mistake knowing that they’re going to get it back somehow — they’re going to have your back and they’re going to cover you.
“I think the best part of defence — especially in the back end — is there is constant talking. That’s what great defences are built on is communication.”
Grymes is back for his third stint with the green and gold. He’s currently lining up beside Rose on the wide side of the field and said the chemistry is building fast.
“Man, J-Rose has been awesome so far. We’ve already been talking about life, and that’s the biggest thing is being comfortable with each other so when it does come to the field, whatever you do, I’ll make you right and vice-versa,” Grymes said.
“This is only our second practice and we are already keying in on things like that. Having Brian Walker beside me, the chemistry is already there and that’s something that’s beautiful to see.”
There won’t be any pre-season games this season, only scrimmages. Rose said communication is going to be his group’s best friend going into the regular season.
“We have to do it all at practice and we have a short period of time, so we go from camp to game planning,” Rose said.
“Usually we have that game simulation, so without it, we’re using this camp to get all of our communication down from across the board so there’s no hesitation or grey area in anybody’s play.”
Listen below: Elks defensive co-ordinator Noel Thorpe speaks about mixing in older and newer concepts and finally being able to watch his group after a long layoff.
66 Matt O’Donnell OL
6’11 350 pounds 32 years old
It looked for a while that after eight years and a Grey Cup Championship in green and gold, Matt O’Donnell would be changing colours for 2021.
After free agency passed in February, the Elks and O’Donnell had not come to terms on a new deal. The biggest man on the Elks’ training camp roster — listed as 6’11” and 350 pounds — played the patient game waiting until the CFL’s return-to-play plan was official before he made his move. Then, acting as his own agent after the surprising death of his agent Jonathon Hardaway, he went to work. O’Donnell began to make calls the week of June 14 and came close to a deal with two different teams in the CFL East.
“I basically put my free agency on hold until there was a solid foundation that we were moving towards a season,” said the 32-year-old, who spoke with all nine teams before deciding to return to Edmonton
“I haven’t hidden the fact that I’ve wanted to play my whole career here. I have loved my time here and am lucky to re-sign here, and I can’t wait to get out there.”
His focus is now all about the 2021 season and the Elks. He said walking into Commonwealth Stadium again was a pretty good feeling.
“It feels good to be home — Edmonton is my home,” O’Donnell said. “I’m playing where I want to play, my locker is still there, same number, shoulder pads and helmet, all still there.
“It’s exciting to be back in town and put the pads on.”
No roster moves were made on Monday.
The Elks are back on The Brick Field at Commonwealth Stadium at 10 a.m. on Tuesday. All training camp sessions are closed to the public.
Watch below: Some Global News video about the Edmonton Elks.