Mirrors are rare at Commonwealth Stadium right now, as the Edmonton Elks do their best to forget about the short-term past and focus on any kind of future.
“We’re just looking through the windshield and where we’re going,” Jones said after main camp’s opening practice in the scorching sun, during which Jones draped a towel over his head for parts of the training. daytime.
But the distant past is actually what Jones will attempt to replicate when he returns to Edmonton seven years after the franchise’s last Gray Cup championship when it was known as the Eskimos.
“We have a lot of work to do. It’s kind of surreal to come back after having had a lot of success. It’s really cool to see some of these guys that were on this team,” said Jones, who suddenly left the double-E in 2015 to coach three seasons in Saskatchewan before a short stint with the NFL’s Cleveland Browns.
His monumental task on the pitch now is to bring the Elks back to respectability.
The team have won just three games in 2021 and failed to give fans any success in the Commonwealth losing all home games.
So any talk of a possible return to the Gray Cup could be seen as incredibly ambitious.
“I’m not too smart so I can’t even imagine how far this could go, I mean months, it’s true…so we just have to put one foot in front of the other and take baby steps .” Jones added.
But players have already noticed an increased amount of the factor that may be most important for any training camp, in any sport, in any league.
“He’s excited. He’s ready to go. Coach Jones, of all the coaches I’ve had, he brings the most competition to training, so day one we’re all ready to go,” said David Beard, a lineman forward who played for Jones in that 2015 CFL championship.
The Edmonton Elks warm up before the main camp opener on Sunday, May 15, 2022 (CTV News Edmonton/Dave Mitchell).
“We have competitions going like crazy,” Beard added.
As Jones focuses on his players, the off-field issues that plagued the Elks in 2021 are also beginning to be resolved.
New team President Victor Cui gave new and old employees a renewed sense of pride.
The Elks have a revamped communications staff and an improved video production team which they hope will increase their social media presence with new recruits.
A possible impediment to a successful season across the CFL is ongoing labor issues between the league and the players’ union. Teams are unsure of the day-to-day status of players.
Said Jones, “I left my phone inside, so I didn’t get any sort of notification, so we’ll see once we go in and check the email, or the text…or check Twitter!
Elks player spokesman Aaron Grymes told CTV News Edmonton that the CFL cannot afford any stoppages to the season as it fights to remain relevant in the Canadian sports landscape.
“I think that’s the last thing we need right now as a league, and as players I don’t think either side can afford it. Both sides want the best possible deal, and that’s what they’re at the (negotiating) table doing right now, hopefully right now, at this minute.”
The Elks welcome fans inside the Commonwealth for a preseason game against Calgary on June 3 for Stand With Ukraine night. All proceeds from the $15 tickets will go to the Canada Ukraine Foundation.