Derek Dennis appeared on The Rod Pedersen Show on Wednesday and addressed why he isn’t in training camp with the Edmonton Elks.
“I just haven’t been happy with how upper management has been moving since the day I signed. My thing is, if you know me, the way I tweet is the way I talk. I’m very honest, I’m very upfront. I don’t hide anything, I don’t sugarcoat anything. I tell you exactly how I’m feeling at the moment and dealing with it as such,” said Dennis.
“I was very vocal with them about how things were going and me not wanting to put myself in a situation that would be detrimental to me and I just felt like it was falling on deaf ears. They had an agenda that they wanted to get done and that was the only thing that they focused on.”
The 33-year-old signed with Edmonton as a free agent in January 2021 but elected not to report to training camp. He recently tweeted that he regretted signing with the Elks, but it turns out he has been asking for his release for a long time.
“I was hoping that things would get solved and it hasn’t been in the proper direction,” said Dennis. “That’s why I’ve actually been requesting my release from the team all off-season — actually, a week after I signed, I asked for my release. It’s been an ongoing situation and I’m trying to get it figured out as best as I can and going about it as best as I can, but I’m kind of getting backed up into a corner I don’t like to be in.”
All CFL player contracts are being prorated over this year’s shortened fourteen-game season, meaning they will earn approximately 22 percent less than the initial value of their contracts. That seems to be a sticking point for Dennis, who said he always believed the 2021 season would not be a full eighteen games.
“I saw a shortened season coming,” he said. “I saw how things were structured and I wasn’t happy with it. When I voiced my opinion on how I wanted to see to get that fixed, so that I could be able to play football — because I really do want to play, it’s not that I didn’t want to play — it was just about making the best decision for me and my family.”
Dennis welcomed a second child early-on in the COVID-19 pandemic and also recently bought a house. He wants to continue playing football, but knows his most important responsibility is to his family.
“For me as a young family man, I gotta make decisions that are not just the best for me but the best for my family as well. I would never put them in a compromising situation regardless of my own selfish desires and what I want to do, so that’s exactly why I decided to sit out at first,” said the native of Queens, N.Y.
“As a football player and a young father to a son, you always want to set an example of what to do and how you should move in this world, especially for a young Black man. I wasn’t happy with the situation and I didn’t feel like putting myself in a situation that would be more detrimental to my name.”
Dennis is no stranger to the business side of professional football. The Saskatchewan Roughriders made him the highest-paid offensive lineman in the CFL in February 2017, only to release him one year later to void the final two years of the contract.
“As a player, you have to understand the business that you’re in. First and foremost, it is a business. As much as we love to play the game of football, when you get to this point and you get to this level, it’s not just about your passion for the game anymore,” he said.
“You’d be surprised how many players actually call my phone to get my thoughts and opinions on how things are going or what’s happening or what they should do. I get a lot of respect from a lot of guys around the league and that’s not just due from my play, but it’s also from my personality. Everybody knows if you know me, I’m real. I’m not gonna sugarcoat nothing. I’m gonna be honest with you, I’m gonna tell you how it is, I’m gonna tell what the situation is and I know how to pay attention to people’s words and see exactly what the true intention is of what they’re trying to say.”
The six-foot-three, 340-pound offensive lineman was a three-time West Division all-star with the Calgary Stampeders and captured a Grey Cup in 2018. His best season came in 2016 when he was named the CFL’s Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman.
One of the reasons he wants to continue playing is to improve his chances of being immortalized in the Canadian Football Hall of Fame.
“I felt like I started a Hall of Fame resume and I wanted to continue to build upon that and be able to cement my legacy as a top-tier lineman. It kind of settled in for me when I got voted for that second-team all-decade — for a guy who’s only played four full seasons in the CFL to be considered one of the best four tackles to play in the last ten years, that’s something big and something that I took a lot of pride in,” said Dennis.
“I wanted to be able to keep building upon that. I love winning championships, I love being in a team atmosphere, and guys know my heart and my passion. Every time you see me step on the field when the lights come on I’m going to perform.”