REGINA — For the Riders and Chris Getzlaf, the feeling this off-season was mutual.
Getzlaf’s eight-year stint with the Riders officially ended last Friday, the 33-year old free agent agreeing to sign with the Edmonton Eskimos.
“Of course there’s a level that’s hard to leave,” Getzlaf said Monday, standing in front of a Green and Gold backdrop as he met the Edmonton media for the first time. “It’s a place that I grew up and I got a chance to play for my hometown team, and that’s a blessing in itself.
“There are always going to be memories there. I’m just really pumped for what’s going forward here.”
WATCH: It’s official, Getzlaf is an Eskimo
So Getzlaf replaces the departed Shamawd Chambers in the Eskimos’ offence while Chambers replaces Getzlaf in Regina. Everyone moves on and just like Getzlaf’s career started as a Hamilton Tiger-Cat in ’07, it’ll continue somewhere other than Regina.
It’s not a fairytale ending but for the Riders, this off-season was never about thinking with their hearts.
“You can’t run a season off your heart,” Riders VP of Football Operations and Player Personnel John Murphy told CFL.ca’s Rod Pedersen on 620 CKRM SportsCage Monday. “You have to run it by what’s in front of you.”
Murphy said the Riders were concerned with Getzlaf’s injury status and that he might not be 100 per cent heading into training camp, at the end deciding the risk factor was too high to bring him back.
“There’s no time to make those second guesses later on,” said Murphy. “You can’t be fine with going to training camp and saying ‘we were hoping he’d be 100 per cent’ and be happy because the fans wanted Getzlaf back in a uniform – and if he isn’t, then say ‘well I hope everybody gives us a break because we signed a fan favourite’.
“You and I all know that’s not gonna be how business works.”
Getzlaf was the last remaining question mark on a receiving corps that was almost entirely rebuilt this off-season, starting with the release of Weston Dressler and the departure of Ryan Smith through free agency, both ending up with the Bombers.
The Riders also traded for Maurice Price and signed Kendial Lawrence, John Chiles and a key national in Chambers. The 6-foot-6, 225-pound Jeremy Kelley was also signed on the first day of free agency, while Naaman Roosevelt, Nic Demski and Rob Bagg are among those returning.
It’s a much different-looking unit, but one Murphy and the Riders have taken a calculated approach with, particularly regarding the decision to re-sign one receiver in Bagg and let other big names walk.
“First and foremost, with every one of these guys, we addressed them directly where they stood with us – what our plan would be, how they could return if there’s an interest in returning, and it’s a two-way street,” said Murphy.
“Clearly each one of these guys felt like there was a different opportunity available to them, and to not want to re-negotiate with us, to not listen and look at other options on how they could return,” he added. “Each found an option that could be equal or better than what we spoke about.”
For Getzlaf, changing teams could be a career-rejuvenating move. Two years removed from elite production as a CFL receiver, injuries kept him out of 13 games over the last two seasons and limited him to 993 receiving yards to go with five touchdowns.
“It does, it definitely energizes you,” Getzlaf told Esks.com. “You get to come to a whole new situation and get to meet a whole bunch of new guys. Obviously I’ve met a few with them already and I’m pretty familiar with a lot of the staff as well.
“It still brings a whole new level of excitement and I think it’s kind of rejuvenating if you will, going out and experiencing all these new things.”
Prior to 2014, Getzlaf was among the league’s most productive receivers for four straight years, averaging 981.5 yards per season from 2010 through 2013. While his injury concerns are noted, the 6-foot-1, 208-pound receiver said Monday he’s feeling 100 per cent.
Meanwhile, he adds, the offensive-minded Jason Maas and the Eskimos’ offence are a pretty good fit.
“I’m pumped. I can’t wait to get back out there and start running around with the boys,” said Getzlaf. “There are a lot of weapons on this offence and I can’t wait to get out there and run around with them.”
“Obviously they have a great team,” he continued. “They’re coming off a Grey Cup win, they have a head coach coming in that had tons of success in Ottawa that’s obviously appealing as a receiver.
“The team’s just already set to contend for winning another Grey Cup so it’s a perfect fit for me.”
– With files from Esks.com