‘Cold business’ in Saskatchewan has new Elk Ed Gainey ditching Rider gear: ‘I can throw all that away now, burn it up or something.’

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/CFLPhotoArchive.com

After five seasons with the Saskatchewan Roughriders, it’s time for Ed Gainey to purge his wardrobe.

The veteran defensive back will be forced to trade his green and white ensemble for green and gold after signing with the Edmonton Elks in free agency, a move that was necessitated once the Riders chose not to offer him a contract extension. Turning 32 in June, Gainey isn’t looking to hang on to any mementoes.

“I can throw all that away now, burn it up or something. I can give it away, that’d probably be more productive,” Gainey joked about his Riders paraphernalia during his introductory press conference with the Elks. “I’m all in, man. If any Rider fans are listening, y’all can get whatever y’all can from me when I’m in town.”

The nine-year CFL veteran has established himself as one of the league’s best halfbacks, posting 309 defensive tackles, 36 special teams tackles, 23 interceptions, five forced fumbles and four touchdowns in 126 career games. He was more than respectable in 2021, posting 37 tackles and three picks in 12 regular season games before adding 12 tackles and three more interceptions in two playoff outings. The Riders still didn’t see the value.

“Honestly, I was surprised, but it’s a cold business, I guess. Although I was surprised, I kind of saw it coming, so it is what it is,” Gainey admitted. “I just want to move on with my career. They moved on from me, so at the end of the day, I want to move on and start my new beginnings in Edmonton and do everything that I can for this organization and hopefully get a Grey Cup.”

Asked to elaborate on what warning signs pre-empted his departure from Saskatchewan, Gainey played coy.

“There are things that happen internally within teams and organizations, in the locker room. It is what it is,” he deflected. “I don’t want to really speak more on it, but, like I said, it’s a business and they decided to move on. I’m more than happy to be here in Edmonton.”

A large portion of that happiness stems from a relationship established with the Riders. Current Elks head coach and general manager Chris Jones first acquired Gainey as a free agent from the Hamilton Tiger-Cats back when he held the same role in Saskatchewan. The two developed an excellent rapport, spurring Gainey to a career year in 2017.

“Me and Jones have history. When I was in Saskatchewan with him, he was one of the reasons behind me having that 10 interception season. He and Jason Shivers, the D coordinator, they saw the potential in me,” Gainey acknowledged, illustrating how Jones would push him with some much-need tough love.

“We were a few games into the season and he had a little talk with me and told me that he needed more production out of me, he needed better play from me and for me to be a leader out there, lead by example. I’m very familiar with him. I enjoy playing under him as a coach, as a player and I’m excited to get to work.”

If Jones can squeeze another all-star calibre campaign out of the cover man in his tenth season, it will be worth way more than the cost of the fabric to fill Gainey’s empty closet.

Abbott is a UBC student, youth coach and lifelong CFL fanatic. He specializes in coverage of the CFL draft and the league's global initiative.