Edmonton Elks’ running back James Wilder Jr. announces his 2022 season over due to injury, will require spinal surgery to continue CFL career

Photo courtesy: Edmonton Elks

Edmonton Elks running back James Wilder Jr. has announced he will be unable to return for the 2022 season and requires an operation on his neck if he wishes to continue his CFL career.

Wilder Jr. was placed on the Elks’ six-game injured list ahead of the team’s Week 4 game against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats with what had been listed as a nagging shoulder injury. However, the injury appears to be much more serious as the 30-year-old shared on Thursday via his Instagram account.

“These last couple weeks has been EXTREMELY hard on me mentally. Not being out there with my brothers to lead on the field or even on the practice field. I been trying my hardest to keep busy. The smiles in public are becoming hard to do when asked when I’m coming back to play, or even hard to smile at all genuinely since this info. I was told by docs that my season is over and the only way I can ever play again is getting neck/spine surgery. I’ve been so numb I don’t even know how to process this to even know what I want to do. This isn’t a retirement speech by any means. I’m just updating my fans with what’s going on with my career. I’m thankful and love2all!!!! #getWILDER”

The statement was titled “IDK” — internet short-hand for “I don’t know” — and shared with the caption, “No sympathy needed, I’ll take the prayers though!!!”

Through three games in 2022, Wilder Jr. has posted 28 carries for 124 yards and nine catches for 90 more.

The Tampa native previously retired from the CFL because of uncertainty surrounding the cancelled 2020 season but opted to resume his career with the Edmonton Elks last year. He was a bright spot for the Elks in an otherwise miserable 2021 season, coming out of retirement to record 142 carries for 770 yards and two touchdowns. He also caught 28 passes for 226 yards and one touchdown.

Wilder Jr. had originally signed with the Montreal Alouettes for that 2020 season after he requested and received his release from the Toronto Argonauts in late November.

The six-foot-three, 232-pound back played 44 games over three seasons in Double Blue but gradually fell out of favour with the organization. In his first campaign, Wilder Jr. recorded 872 rushing yards and five touchdowns, while adding 467 yards receiving on his way to CFL Most Outstanding Rookie honours in 2017.

In 59 career games, Wilder Jr. has rushed for 2,917 yards and 11 touchdowns on 530 carries, while catching 191 passes for 1,803 yards and six more scores.