Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ receiver Greg Ellingson knew he wouldn’t be going back to Edmonton well before anyone else did.
The 33-year-old was the Elks’ top pass catcher during a disappointing 2021 season, hauling in 47 receptions for 687 yards and a single touchdown, but that didn’t mean much to a team under new management. New head coach and general manager Chris Jones simply never saw eye-to-eye with the eight-year veteran.
“I think I got that sense a lot sooner than people know,” Ellingson remarked of his departure from Edmonton after two seasons.
“There was a little miscommunication between Jones and I. Things just didn’t go perfectly how they were supposed to with that relationship. I think that ship kind of sailed much sooner than people know in free agency.”
Ellingson wouldn’t elaborate on the nature of the miscommunication, but he was more than happy to land with the back-to-back Grey Cup champion Bombers. The decision to head to Winnipeg was an easy one after the club courted him hard ahead of the 2019 season, when he ultimately became an Elk.
“It kind of starts from a couple years ago, talking to [head coach Mike] O’Shea and [general manager] Kyle Walters. It was between Edmonton and Winnipeg then, knowing the guys they had there and [assistant GM] Danny McManus, I had a relationship with him from being in down in Hamilton when I first started my career,” Ellingson explained. “Knowing they wanted me, the talks that we had then kind of fell over to this year.”
After being spurned by Edmonton, the fact that a team still coveted him highly three years after initial conversations spoke volumes to Ellingson. Existing relationships with players like quarterback Zach Collaros were a major plus, but it was the personal investment of the Bombers organization that made the difference.
“The value that I felt coming from Winnipeg, with O’Shea and [offensive coordinator Buck Pierce] calling me and guys reaching out to me, giving me a shot,” Ellingson said of the determining factor.
“It makes a world of a difference when they approach things that way, to build a relationship with a player they are desiring, not just sending a number to their agent and saying we want you for this. They did their diligence in making sure that they let me know that I was valued.”
The five-time 1,000-yard receiver is now focused on a return to form as the Bombers’ new top target, taking over for 2021 league leader Kenny Lawler — who Jones had no miscommunications with while offering a $300,000 deal in Edmonton.
Ellingson has played 117 career CFL games, making 549 receptions for 7,952 yards with 42 touchdowns, averaging 14.5 yards per catch, but is coming off his worst season since an injury-plagued 2014. Some have questioned how much juice the receiver will have left for his ninth campaign, but Ellingson intends to keep playing for many years to come.
“I work out with [NFL] Combine guys every year, I’m working out with Combine guys right now, and as long as I can still keep beating these guys down and showing ’em how it’s done, then it is going to be quite a while until I hang it up,” Ellingson said from his home in Tampa.
“I tell ’em Jerry Rice, I’m gonna go until I’m about 40. I think that seems like a good number to me.”
The iconic Rice recorded 1,848 receiving yards when he was 33. If Ellingson can come anywhere near that number, the Bombers will be extremely pleased with their acquisition.