A GOOD CATCH? Redblacks receiver Kenny Stafford moving on from ‘cultural fit’ comment from Elks coach – Toronto Sun

“Was it a shot on me? Yes, it did hurt. But I have to take my feelings out of this situation because it’s a business and, when it comes to business, there are no feelings involved.”

Author of the article:

Tim Baines  •  Postmedia

Receiver Kenny Stafford practised with the Ottawa Redblacks for the first time at TD Place stadium on Saturday.
Receiver Kenny Stafford practised with the Ottawa Redblacks for the first time at TD Place stadium on Saturday. Photo by Chris Hofley, Ottawa Redblacks /Handout

When longtime Canadian Football League veteran Kenny Stafford was released by the Edmonton Elks in the middle of training camp two months ago, he was surprised — he’d been getting first-team reps.

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When Elks head coach Jaime Elizondo told media it wasn’t because of the 31-year-old receiver’s football ability, that he just “wasn’t a cultural fit,” Stafford was stung.

“I honestly don’t know exactly what he meant by that,” said Stafford, who was signed by the Ottawa Redblacks a week ago and participated in his first practice Saturday at TD Place stadium. “I was a starter since Day 1, so, if I wasn’t a cultural fit, why was I still a starter in Day 10 of training camp? If I wasn’t a cultural fit, why didn’t they just release me early? I didn’t get fined, I didn’t miss a meeting, I didn’t miss a practice. I was productive through training camp, they said nothing about my play. I’d rather them just say they wanted to go in a different direction, that’s more respectful. To make matters worse, (Elizondo) said, ‘If it was just about football, we wouldn’t be having this discussion.’ So I’ll just leave it at that.

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“I’m not going to dwell on it. This is not a get-back for me. Was it a shot on me? Yes, it did hurt. But I have to take my feelings out of this situation because it’s a business and, when it comes to business, there are no feelings involved. People that know me, they know my true character. When other players and coaches are reaching out, saying, ‘Don’t worry about it,’ you just brush it off.”

Stafford played for the Calgary Stampeders, Montreal Alouettes, Edmonton and Saskatchewan Roughriders from 2013 to 2019. In 2018, with Edmonton, he had 55 catches for 781 yards. In an abbreviated 2019 — just seven games — he had 366 receiving yards and two touchdowns. After being released by the Elks, he returned home and was coaching football at his old high school, St. Francis DeSales in Columbus, Ohio. He was also working out, hoping to get another professional football opportunity.

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Asked if he thought his CFL days might be over, he said: “I couldn’t be worried about it. You’re not thinking about the next opportunity, you’re just being prepared for it. I didn’t really dwell on or think about what if that next opportunity doesn’t happen … because I have a lot of football left. It’s not like my body’s giving out on me. It’s not like I still can’t be productive at the receiver position. It’s all about opportunity and a team willing to give me a chance.”

Stafford, who played his college football at the University of Toledo, is 6-3. He was part of a group of receivers, also including former Dallas Cowboy Terrance Williams, Damon Sheehy-Guiseppe and Terry Williams that the Redblacks announced the signings of one day after a 45-13 beating by the B.C. Lions in Vancouver on Sept. 11.

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Stafford says he’s gained a lot of maturity and knowledge since Day 1 of his CFL career, learning from pros like Nik Lewis, S.J. Green, Adarius Bowman and Dave Stala. A big takeaway: Be prepared for every snap.

“I learned to approach the game the right way, not wanting to get off the field and get back to my apartment just to hang out,” he said. “I learned about taking care of my body. Learn the playbook, not just about what I have, but what the whole team has. You learn to be professional. When you’re 24, 25, you’re young, you’re dumb. You think you know everything, so you’re not going to really listen.”

Kenny Stafford runs with the football during a 2018 CFL game between Edmonton and Saskatchewan.
Kenny Stafford runs with the football during a 2018 CFL game between Edmonton and Saskatchewan. Photo by David Bloom /Postmedia

As for getting an opportunity with the Redblacks, he said: “I know I still have juice. I get paid to play a kids game again. This is the opportunity right now: me playing football, me putting my cleats on, putting the helmet on, coming out and doing the things I love to do. I know they wouldn’t be bringing me in here if they didn’t need help.”

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As for the “cultural fit,” he said: “You can talk to anyone that’s coached me. I had Chris Jones as a head coach … if I wasn’t a cultural fit, I wouldn’t have been there. I was with Ed Harvey and Jason Maas was my head coach. If I wasn’t a cultural fit, I wouldn’t have been there. I played for Dave Dickenson. If I wasn’t a cultural fit, I wouldn’t have been there.”

THE END AROUND: Redblacks head coach Paul LaPolice hopes his team is learning from its mistakes, and there have been plenty of those, especially in the past two losses. “You can’t be successful doing some of the things we’re doing,” LaPolice said. “You have to keep your composure. Everybody who’s been in this business wins games in the last series or the last play. Who cares if it’s 14-10 or 14-7 or whatever (the score is), you have to keep on playing” … Up next for the Redblacks: a Wednesday night matchup with the 3-3 Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Asked about the importance of a game against an East Division rival, LaPolice said: “It’s this game, that’s why it’s big. We want to beat Hamilton to get a win, then figure out what comes next.” … The Redblacks have released global receiver Guillermo Villalobos, who had been with the team since 2019 … Stafford was wearing No. 85 in practice Saturday. Newcomers Terry Williams and Sheehy-Giuseppe were also practising, with Terrance Williams and running back De’Lance Turner expected to practise Sunday. It’ll be at least a week before quarterback Devlin Hodges, signed Thursday, gets on the practice field … Running back Brendan Gillanders practised for the first time since being injured (foot) in Week 1 and being put on the six-game injured list … After missing the B.C. game with a calf injury, returner/ receiver DeVonte Dedmon also practised Saturday.

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