The Edmonton Elks got a chance to relax in Week 8 but their football operations department took no such time off.
“Having a bye week was just a few days of not having players around but we were definitely working,” assistant general manager Geroy Simon said in an appearance on TSN 1260’s Lowetide and Jamieson this week. “Both phones were on the go, every day, all day.”
That much was made clear by the bevy of roster moves the Elks managed while on the bye. The week off started with a pair of trades, as Edmonton acquired veteran punter Jon Ryan from Hamilton and Canadian receiver Llevi Noel from Ottawa, before they brought the axe down hard on Friday.
The Elks released ten players, including starting receiver Mike Jones and several others who had played prominent roles. The team then added five new players, continuing the never-ending cycle of roster turnover since head coach and general manager Chris Jones took over this offseason.
“We’re always looking and that’s part of this job,” Simon explained. “I’m never really looking at right now. I’m looking at what’s going to happen in a week from now, two weeks from now, five weeks from now.”
Sitting at last place in the West Division with a 2-5 record, it’s clear that changes were needed in the now erroneously-named City of Champions. Nevertheless, the constant player carousel is disconcerting for fans, though Simon remarks it is often a matter of necessity.
“I know that each and every week the roster looks a little different but it’s due to one, we’ve got to find the right pieces, and two, dealing with the injuries,” he said.
That second issue has been especially impactful, as Edmonton has been one of the CFL’s most heavily injured teams virtually from the opening of training camp.
“It was funny because I was reflecting on this last week’s game and I was like, man, it’s the first game we didn’t have any major injuries. Looking at our six-game injured list, I’m just kind of shedding a tear every week,” Simon admitted.
“Of the many guys on the six-game injured, about eight of them are guys that we projected as starters. We’re constantly working on trying to make this team better but also trying to get those guys who are injured and capable of coming back this year, trying to get them healthy to get them on the field and help our team get back to our winning ways.”
Among the marquee names suffering long-term absences are the likes of defensive tackle Jake Ceresna, all-star halfback Aaron Grymes, cornerback Nafees Lyon and running back James Wilder Jr. Veteran receiver Derel Walker has also missed time on the one-game injured list, while last year’s top rookie, Nyles Morgan, and two-way playmaker Duron Carter both joined the lineup for the first time last week.
In total, four defensive tackles and four linebackers were on the six-game as of Week 7, decimating depth at those positions. That has added an additional challenge to the Elks’ long-term rebuild, but Jones and Simon had no illusions that the process would be easy.
“The day that he hired me, he said, ‘It’s going to be a struggle. There’s a lot of fixing to do. There are a lot of things that we’ve got to change and improve,'” Simon recalled. “I was prepared for it.”
With Saskatchewan labouring through injury problems of their own and a Western crossover virtually assured, Edmonton remains a realistic playoff contender despite their mediocre start to the year.
Simon believes they can lean on his own experience with the 2011 B.C. Lions and Jones’ long history of turning franchises as they look for an improved result with another wildly different lineup next week against B.C.
“We have the experience, we have the patience. It’s just a matter of executing and I think we’re doing a good job of bringing the right type of guys in here,” Simon said.
“We feel we’re on the right track. We’re getting a few guys back this week. We got a few guys back last week. We feel good about our progress and feel good about our future moving forward.”