Kurleigh Gittens Jr. feeling good with Edmonton Elks after off-season hip surgery

Screenshot courtesy: Edmonton Elks

Edmonton Elks’ receiver Kurleigh Gittens Jr. is participating in training camp with his new team after undergoing major hip surgery during the off-season, but indicated that every day will be a “work in progress” as he continues his recovery.

“It’s always a pleasure being out here playing football, I love playing football. I’ve been working my ass off this off-season just trying to get get back to myself,” Gittens told the media in Edmonton.

“It was a long journey, but I had a good support system. My daughter, she was pretty much my motivation for this off-season, she didn’t like seeing me hurt and I wanted to make her proud. For me, it was just, ‘What can I do each and every day to get ahead of the game?’ Because at the end of the day, as much as it was physical, it’s more mental than physical, so really, it was just trying to get my mentality to be on the same page as my physical part of my body.”

“I’m just thankful I got the support system that I have in order to push me each and every day because some days, you doubt yourself. Is it really good? Is it really healthy? When you got the right people beside you, you’ll be all right.”

The 26-year-old was a third-round pick of the Toronto Argonauts in the 2019 CFL Draft out of Wilfrid Laurier University. He became a starter during his second season in 2021 and broke out the following year when he caught 81 passes for 1,101 yards and five touchdowns to help the team win the Grey Cup.

The Ottawa, Ont. native’s production plummetted this past season as part of a crowded receiving corps in Toronto. He missed the final eight games of the regular season due to a hip injury that required off-season surgery and was traded to the Elks in January in exchange for perennial all-star defensive tackle Jake Ceresna.

McLeod Bethel-Thompson, Edmonton’s new franchise quarterback, spent three seasons alongside Gittens in Toronto, including his breakout 2022 campaign. The veteran passer is confident that Gittens will be ready to go

“I called Kurleigh back when the trade went down and I just asked him, ‘Are you good to go?’ and he said, ‘Yes.’ When Kurleigh says that, there’s no doubt,” said Bethel-Thompson. “He has a special dog about him. There’s an inner perseverance, there’s an inner strength that sits inside of Kurleigh, you can see it through his eyes, so I knew when he said that, his word is his bond and he would be ready to rock.”

Steven Dunbar Jr. and Emmanuel Arceneaux are no longer part of Edmonton’s receiving corps, but Eugene Lewis, Dillon Mitchell, and Kyran Moore remain as incumbent starters. Gittens is bullish about the team’s group of pass-catchers, though he recognizes the club has a lot to prove following a 4-14 season.

“Personally, I think we’ve got the best receiving corps in the league, but obviously saying it is just saying it,” said Gittens. “For us, we’re just going to put in the work each and every day, get better, and everything else will work out the way it’s supposed to.”

The Elks will open their preseason on Saturday, May 25 when they host the Saskatchewan Roughriders at Commonwealth Stadium.