From day one, Jones went to work on re-tooling a roster which produced a dismal 3-11 season in the 2021.
Jones has brought in plenty of new players — from rookies to CFL veterans. Jones was a part of the team’s last Grey Cup win in 2015, he’s brought some of the band back together.
Back in the fold from 2015 are receiver Derel Walker, defensive back Aaron Grymes, linebacker Adam Konar, and defensive back Mike Dubuisson.
Offensive lineman David Beard was a rookie in 2015. Jones also brought in two more players who are expected to set the tone with the attitude they bring on the football field: linebacker Deon Lacey and offensive lineman Tony Washington.
Lacey was signed on the first day of CFL free-agency on Feb. 9, bringing him back to the green and gold where he spent two seasons starting in 2014 and helped the team earn the Grey Cup title in 2015.
“Coming in as a rookie in 2014 and not knowing what to expect. All I know when I got here is Coach Jones had us running fast from sideline to sideline for two hours straight and the let best man win,” Lacey said.
“We ended up with the Grey Cup and now we have the opportunity to meet up, and try to do it again.”
Lacey, in all, played three seasons in Edmonton — doing most of his work on special teams. He recorded 68 special teams tackles, with 29 of those tackles coming in 2014.
That season, Lacey was named a 2014 Western Division All-Star and was the team’s nominee for Most Outstanding Special Teams player.
Chris Jones remembers the day he saw Lacey during a camp before the 2014 season. Competing against some more high-profile names, Jones said Lacey stood out the most.
“This guy from (University of) West Alabama is just continuing to take reps, continuing to play, and all the others just took themselves out of the equation and decided football wasn’t as important to them — Deon Lacey didn’t do that,” Jones said.
“Does he run quite as well as he used to, probably not, he’s a little bit older like all of us. At the same time, he can still crank it up and he can still come after you.”
LISTEN: Edmonton Elks linebacker Deon Lacey on being back with the Elks and Chris Jones for a second time
Tony Washington and Jones know each other very well, having first worked together with the Calgary Stampeders in 2011 and then with the Toronto Argonauts for two seasons, which included a Grey Cup in 2012. Now, two stints in Edmonton including a Grey Cup win in 2015. Washington was traded to Edmonton before the 2014 CFL draft for a first-round pick.
Back on Jan. 14, Jones acquired Washington via a trade from the Montreal Alouettes. Washington said the fit with Jones and offensive coordinator Steve McAdoo is the right mix for him.
“Working with Coach Jones and Coach McAdoo, they are the two coaches that know how to push me, and get me to a place where I feel comfortable and they get me to do more. I love those guys,” Washington laughed.
LISTEN: Edmonton Elks offensive lineman Tony Washington on coming back to the Edmonton Elks and knowing his time is short as a player
Washington is now 36 years old and is projected as the Elks starting left tackle when the regular season begin on June 11 in Vancouver. He brings the toughness and attitude Jones wants on his team. Jones says he knows Washington will test his limits as well.
“He’s going to aggravate you to death but at the same time, you know what to expect,” Jones said.
“Every time you throw him out there, yes he’s going to have the one or two plays where you say, ‘Tony, what in the world are you doing Tony?’ Then he’s going to have three or four plays where you say, ‘That’s what we got him for.’
“He’s going to be physical and he’s going to be here and do the right things.”
The Elks will be back on field for another training camp session on Tuesday morning, starting at 9 a.m. on The Brick Field at Commonwealth Stadium.
The Elks will play their first pre-season game on Friday night in Winnipeg against the Grey Cup champion Blue Bombers. 630 CHED will have live coverage starting with Countdown to Kick-Off at 5 p.m., the opening kick-off will be at 6:30 p.m. from IG Field.