‘I can’t hold that against anyone’: Elks’ punter Jon Ryan admits he might not have re-signed himself if he were the Riders

Photo courtesy: Edmonton Elks

Veteran punter Jon Ryan isn’t dwelling on his unceremonious departure from the Saskatchewan Roughriders ahead of the first matchup with his hometown team.

Regina’s local punting legend will take on the Riders as a member of the Edmonton Elks on Saturday, but no longer appears sour about his separation from the club he cheered for his entire life.

“If I ran a team as a GM or a head coach and a 40-year-old guy had an injury going into the season, I might have said no too, so I can’t hold that against anyone,” Ryan confessed this week on 620 CKRM’s The SportsCage.

“It’s just the business side of it. If it was a friendship sport, I’m sure [head coach Craig Dickenson] and I would be together again for a few more years but it’s not, it’s a business. As a guy who’s played 19 years of pro football, I definitely understand that so there’s no hard feelings whatsoever.”

Ryan first joined the Riders in 2019 after a 12-year NFL career with the Seattle Seahawks and Green Bay Packers that earned him a Super Bowl victory in 2014. He played 28 games over two seasons with Saskatchewan and registered 169 punts for 8,192 yards (48.1 average), receiving a West Division all-star nod in his first season.

Still performing at a top level, Ryan had intended to finish out his career with the Riders in hopes of winning a Grey Cup at home in Regina. However, a broken ankle late in the 2021 season opened the door for Norwegian punter Kaare Vedvik to take over the top job.

Despite a willingness to play at an extremely discounted rate, Saskatchewan ultimately let Ryan walk in free agency in order to go with the younger and cheaper Global option. The veteran expressed his frustration with the decision at the time but now admits that the extent of his injury probably played a factor.

“It’s something that took a long time to rehab, a lot longer than I thought it was going to,” Ryan acknowledged. “Really it’s only been the last two months that I’ve been back kicking and training full time. It did take quite some time and I wouldn’t have been ready for training camp had they had me sign in Sask.”

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats eventually signed Ryan five weeks into the CFL season after a reshuffling of their specialists but opted to stick with youngster Michael Domagala and promptly traded him to Edmonton. He made his debut in Green and Gold last week, punting seven times for an average of 41.9 yards against the B.C. Lions.

His next test will be against the team he had hoped to be playing for prior to the season, but Ryan is not approaching his matchup with the Riders any differently.

“Once the ball is kicked off, it’s all the same. You go into the game mode. You don’t think about the opponents on the other side, you’re just worried about your game,” he explained. “It’s fun to be able to see these guys and hook up with someone before the game for dinner and whatnot but once you do that, it’s all football.”

Meanwhile, Saskatchewan has no regrets about the punting position, as Vedvik continues to perform well with an average of 45.1 yards per kick.