CFL Pass

Newcomer Kenny Stafford glad to feel wanted by Roughriders

After seven CFL seasons with four different teams, it’s not easy to surprise Kenny Stafford.

Yet, that’s exactly what happened on Monday when the Saskatchewan Roughriders acquired Stafford from the Edmonton Eskimos for return man Christion Jones.

At the time of the deal, Stafford was Edmonton’s third-leading receiver, with 30 grabs for 366 yards and two touchdowns in seven games.

“Any time you’re playing good football and you’re productive, you don’t think you’re on the trading block,” Stafford said Tuesday following his first practice with the Riders. “I made Edmonton my home. I live there year-round. It was a little bit of shock but at the end of the day it feels good to be wanted.

“I’m excited to get to work and wear the green and white.”

Stafford is on pace for his best statistical campaign as a CFLer. That comes on the heels of establishing new career highs last season — 55 catches for 781 yards in 17 games with Edmonton.

“Last year I got tied up in the numbers,” said the 29-year-old Ohio product. “I had 75 targets the first nine games. The last nine games, only 25. I was on pace for 1,000 yards that year too. You don’t want to get caught up in that. You just want to be productive.”

Stafford’s opportunity could come as early as Friday’s road clash with the Montreal Alouettes. He’s first in line to replace Shaq Evans, who didn’t practise Tuesday due to an ankle injury.

“He’s not quite right,” Riders head coach Craig Dickenson said of Evans. “He hurt his ankle (Monday) and he couldn’t move at all today. We’ll see. Tomorrow is a big day.”

Based upon Evans’ questionable status, the timing of the trade could work out perfectly for the Riders, who announced the deal about two hours before their leading receiver got hurt.

Stafford said he’s “ready to play right now” if required while Dickenson expressed confidence that the newcomer should get up to speed quickly in a familiar offensive system.

Stafford won a Grey Cup with Edmonton in 2015 while playing under offensive co-ordinator Stephen McAdoo, who has the same title in Saskatchewan. Dickenson was the Eskimos’ special teams co-ordinator at the time.

“He looks good; same Kenny we had in Edmonton,” Dickenson said Tuesday. “He’s a pro. He has worked with Coach Mac before and he’s a smart guy. He’s a good football player. I feel like he can come in and contribute right away for us as either a starter or possibly that first backup in.”

Regardless of the role, Stafford described himself as a “speed guy” who can “blow the top off the defence.” The 6-foot-3, 204-pounder also adds a little more veteran savvy to the Riders’ receiving corps, not to mention the versatility to play “all five positions.”

“I’m a proven route runner; I know the game inside and out,” Stafford added. “I’m just a veteran guy who adds a little bit of spice. I know what it takes to win. I won a Grey Cup with some of the coaches here. They know what I can do. Now it’s just proving it to my teammates — have them believe in me, have them trust in me, have the City of Regina and Saskatchewan trust in me, and let’s go ahead and chase a Grey Cup.”