Coach Elizondo has been busy laying the groundwork for a new Elks culture

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While the plan has always been to win, the fact that there is still someone new in Edmonton tasked with setting everything up cannot be overlooked.

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The Edmonton Elks haven’t just spent the last three weeks at training camp building their roster for the 2021 Canadian Football League season.

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As a first-time head coach, Jaime Elizondo also built his vision of a winning culture in the dressing room after finally getting his players together for what was a one-of-a-kind preseason.

And he wasted no time, both installation and disposal, in making sure the right parts were in place.

He wasn’t shy in the way he went about it either, categorically declaring when a player wasn’t the right fit, as extended veteran Kenny Stafford can attest with his mid-camp dismissal.

But for Elizondo, building a winning culture goes beyond his roster. It’s an attitude the head coach seeks to squeeze through the walls of Commonwealth Stadium itself.

“I think we have a big group of men in that locker room, we even cut some big men in Vontae Diggs and Shawn Lemon,” Elizondo said. “As we try to build this thing, and I’ve said it before, culture is what wins championships.

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“We cut men who would suit what we’re building in this locker room. But we’ve got a great bunch of guys in there right now, it starts with you as a person.

“And if you’ve got a really good group of men and they’re also a great group of soccer players, that’s a great combination to have. This is the starting point for building this thing the right way.

Then again, it’s not like Elizondo is new to the coaching business, even though this is his first time as a chef.

He has been coaching football since 1998, having worked with Jimmye Laycock, Joe Gardi, Doug Marrone and Pete Mangurian in the NCAA, as well as Jim Barker, Rick Campbell and Marc Trestman (on both sides of the border).

“You take things from every coach and sort of build your own plan and your own philosophy,” Elizondo said. “I think it’s been a different year, a tough year. We had a plan, we’re sticking to it, we’ll see how it pays off. “

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While the plan has always been to win, the fact that there is still someone new in Edmonton tasked with setting everything up cannot be overlooked.

Not while the neighboring CFL club 300 km to the south has only had two different head coaches since 2008. And the succession only took place so that the previous one could focus on the role of general manager.

During that same time, things have been a bit smoother, shall we say, in Edmonton, which has gone from Danny Maciocia to Richie Hall to Kavis Reed to Chris Jones to Jason Maas to Scott Milanovich to their current head coach. , Elizondo.

Count the wins in that span and Calgary comes in with a 155-58-3 record, compared to Edmonton’s 113-103-0. The Gray Cup Championships are 3-1, also in Calgary’s favor.

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Whether everything falls on the shoulders of the head coach, whether it is the successes or the failures of a team, is open to debate. But one thing isn’t: they all have to start somewhere.

And this week is the nomination of Elizondo.

“I think the most important thing is to try to be adaptable and flexible because that’s ultimately what you have to do on game day,” Elizondo said. “I tell the players that football is really just a problem-solving game. You try to work through the issues throughout the week as coaches: how are we going to handle this blitz, how we are going to handle this route, how we are going to stop this comeback. And in the game, all you try to do is solve problems. The players try to solve the problems, line up, react to it.

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“So a bit of our philosophy is, ‘Let’s keep analyzing it’. Let’s continue to solve the problems and come up with the best plan.

WHAT TO DO WITH DIGGS?

Turns out the Toronto Argonauts have their eye on Vontae Diggs, although they’re not sure where the former Edmonton Elks linebacker will fit in now that they have him.

The Argos signed the 25-year-old U-Conn product on July 30, a day after being shown the Commonwealth Stadium gate among the camp’s other final cups.

“I liked him in his movie,” said Argos head coach Ryan Dinwiddie. “It is a physical child who will attack the smuggler. He can play on cover as linebacker WIL (weak side). We felt he was a guy who would fit into our room.

However, Diggs is not expected to dress for opening day as he has been undergoing various COVID protocols since arriving.

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Once on the training ground, the team will have the opportunity to decide their role, either as a designated import, as a special team or as a linebacker substitute.

Then again, this is a team that has yet to name its starting quarterback for Saturday’s opener.

Inside and outside: OT SirVincent Rogers (chest), OT Kyle Saxelid (back) and LB Malik Tyne (hamstrings) did not train on Tuesday, while DB Dotun Aketepe and S Jordan Hoover were placed on the long-term injured list. Aketepe, drafted in the fourth round (32nd overall) in 2020, will undergo surgery this month after suffering an ACL tear in his right knee.

Email: gmoddejonge@postmedia.com

On Twitter: @GerryModdejonge

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