Kenny Stafford: Jaime Elizondo ‘attacking my character’ was ‘a low blow’

Photo courtesy: Edmonton Elks

Kenny Stafford was released by the Edmonton Elks last week when head coach Jaime Elizondo said he “wasn’t a cultural fit.” The veteran receiver appreciates that he got to return for a third stint with the team but wishes it had ended on better terms.

“I’m thankful, honestly, for the opportunity they gave me. I know football is a business and in business you can never take anything personal, but when you start attacking my character — especially when you don’t know me not only as a football player, but you don’t know me as a man — that was kind of like a low blow to me. I didn’t understand where that came from,” said Stafford on The Rod Pedersen Show.

“In the midst of emotions, maybe he (Elizondo) just said that and he didn’t really mean that. But at the end of the day, he’s the head coach of that football team and it’s his team. He’s going to want who he wants in the building. That’s kind of all you can really take from it.”

Stafford said he didn’t understand being called not a cultural fit because he believes he’s already a permanent part of the team’s culture.

“I’ll forever be a part of Edmonton culture because I won a championship there. I’ll always be a part of that culture no matter how you see it. Champions live forever, so my name is engrained in Edmonton forever,” said Stafford. “Edmonton has always been a second home to me. They welcomed me with open arms.”

The 31-year-old was originally acquired by Edmonton in 2015 when he was traded from Montreal in exchange for Fred Stamps. It took some time to win over the fans — Stamps was a fan favourite — but Stafford ended up making the city his home for three years and was active in the community, helping coach local kids.

Elizondo was critical of Stafford’s character, but the veteran receiver elected not to fight fire with fire. Instead, he praised the first-year head coach.

“I’m not going to sit here and bash anyone,” said Stafford. “That’s just not something I do. Just being professional, I’m not going to sit here and dog someone. He is a good coach, his offence is good. Him and Trevor (Harris) have a great connection from the Ottawa stint. They work well with each other.”

“I just wanted to clear the air because I feel like coaches label a player and that label carries a lot weight. He could possibly damage my next opportunity.”

Stafford was traded to Saskatchewan in August 2019 despite being one of the CFL’s leading receivers at the time. He never got an opportunity to play for the Riders but worked hard to help out his teammates whenever possible.

“You can ask all those guys — Shaq (Evans), [Jordan Williams-Lambert], Manny (Arceneaux), Naaman (Roosevelt), (Mitch) Picton, (Brayden) Lenius — I was a great teammate,” said Stafford. “Anything I saw, I would try to help the young guys out because I’d been in this offence with (Stephen) McAdoo. I knew it like the back of my hand because I won a championship in it. Any nuances that I’ve learned, I gave it to them. Even the veterans.”

The six-foot-three, 205-pound target remained in Canada for a few days after he was released by Edmonton in case another team wanted to sign him. He has since moved to his home state of Ohio and started coaching high school football, which means he’ll need to quarantine for seven days if he signs another CFL contract.