Ricky Ray expects boos in Edmonton return
Toronto Argonauts' quarterback Ricky Ray looks to make a pass during a pre-season game in Hamilton, Ont. June 13, 2012. Ray is determined to lead his Toronto Argonauts to an opening weekend win over his former Edmonton Eskimo teammates. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Chris Young
EDMONTON - Ricky Ray isn't banking on any love from Edmonton Eskimo fans when he leads his new team, the Toronto Argonauts, against his old teammates Saturday.
"I'm expecting boos," Ray said after arriving at Commonwealth Stadium on Friday prior to his team's CFL season-opening matchup.
"I've just travelled enough around the CFL, going to Regina, Hamilton and some of those places, (like) Winnipeg, and you get haggled pretty good, so I'm just expecting it to be the same."
Ray played for nine years in the Green and Gold, winning two Grey Cups and racking up more than 40,000 yards in passing before getting traded to Toronto last December.
The 32-year-old said if hears boos, he's OK with it.
"The fans here don't owe me anything," he said.
"I owe so much to (the fans) for the support they've given me throughout my career here.
"I'm a visitor coming into their stadium and I expect the worst."
Ray admitted it will be strange to walk into the visitor locker-room and not the Eskimo room on game day, but said it's good to get it over with.
"It's nice to play this game early and kind of put it to bed," he said.
"It feels different from a regular regular-season game. There's extra media and different emotions that you're going through."
Ray was traded by Eskimo general manager Eric Tillman to the Argonauts for quarterback Steven Jyles, kicker Grant Shaw, and a draft pick.
Eskimo fans writing, blogging and phoning sports call-in shows have been generally critical, saying Edmonton gave away too much for Jyles, a quarterback with fast legs and a strong arm but one who has been a backup for much of his six-year CFL career.
Ray said he was shocked at the trade, but said he's made his peace with it.
"You feel like (the Eskimos) didn't believe in you anymore," he said.
"You just wish you could have been the guy they thought could get them to the Grey Cup again. Definitely it hurts you a little bit, but it's part of the business."
Across the hallway in the Eskimos locker-room, the players say they'll welcome Ray back, but once the whistle blows it's game on.
Defensive end Marcus Howard said he plans to put a lot of pressure on Ray, and even trash talk him a little.
"I have no choice. He's not my quarterback anymore. I'm going to treat him like any other quarterback I go against," said Howard.
Linebacker T.J. Hill said the key will be to hurry Ray's passes or throw in some wrinkles in coverage.
"We're going to try to make him uncomfortable as much as possible," said Hill.
"That doesn't mean we're going to sack him every time or we'll intercept the ball every time. We've got to put him in uncomfortable situations where he has to make that pass sooner than he wants or make the wrong read.
"(Otherwise) once Ricky gets comfortable, it could be a long day. A very long day."
Eskimo head coach Kavis Reed said he hopes the fans give Ray a standing ovation, but said his team isn't concerned about Ray being a distraction.
"It wasn't really a topic of conversation (this week)," he said, noting that Tillman has overhauled the team that finished 11-7 last season and lost to B.C. in the West Division final.
"If you look at our roster, 70 per cent of the guys never played with Ricky," said Reed.
Reed wouldn't say much about the game plan, but he said even though Ray isn't known for his fast feet, they won't take his running for granted.
"Ricky has good mobility but his penchant is being a pocket passer because he's such an accurate quarterback," said Reed.
"I anticipate tomorrow that the first play (from scrimmage) he's probably going to run it because everyone says he can't and that's why we traded him."