Chris Van Zeyl let out a big sigh when he contemplated playing without Ricky Ray at quarterback for the Argos.
“You want to say the next guy is going to step up and do an incredible job, but that’s Ricky Ray, that’s a Hall of Fame quarterback, it’s very hard to replace him,” Van Zeyl, who has been on the offensive line during Ray’s entire tenure in Toronto, said.
“I know that guys behind him will work hard to get themselves ready. It all depends on how severe the injury is, I’m hoping for the best,” he said. “But it’s very hard to replace a guy like Ricky Ray.”
The 38-year-old signal caller took a hit from Calgary Stampeders defensive lineman Michael Kashak late in the third quarter. He spent a few seconds down on the BMO Field grass, then got up and went immediately to the Argos sideline.
“That’s our job and when things don’t go right and he gets hit and ends up on the turf it tears you up inside,” Van Zeyl said. “He’s the last guy to ever say anything negative to anybody. He’s even keel, he keeps to himself, when he’s hurting you can’t tell – he’s the iceman back there. Right now that’s really all I can think about, we lost a game but it pails in comparison to how my quarterback’s doing.”
After consulting with the Argos medical staff, Ray tossed the ball twice near the bench – each time he had a noticeable grimace on his face – and decided to sit out the rest of the game.
“He was sore and couldn’t really complete the throwing motion. He wasn’t in a great amount of pain, but enough that it inhibited his throwing,” head coach Marc Trestman said.
Anthony Coombs, the Argonauts longest-serving receiver, verbalized the team’s worst fears.
“You hope it’s not what you think it is,” he said.
Ray has injured his shoulder multiple times in the past. It was a game in Toronto back in 2013 when Charleston Hughes drove the three-time Grey Cup champion pivot into the turf at Rogers Centre, tearing the teres major muscle, which required rest and caused him to miss six games.
That’s how the shoulder issues started.
After suffering a torn labrum and small tear in his rotator cuff in the second last game of the 2014 season, Ray underwent surgery soon after the season ended. That recovery took longer than expected and he missed the first 16 games of the 2015 season.
“Obviously a lot of things are going through my head right now the way things have been the last few years,” Ray says. “Just a little sore, took a shot on the arm and it was aching a little bit. We’re hoping it’s just a bruise – a direct hit there and it doesn’t feel good right now.”
Ray leads the CFL in pass attempts by a wide margin, attempting 292 so far this season for a CFL-best 2,421 yards.
“We’re a pass-first offence and we know what’s at stake. We know that we gotta keep him upright, when he goes down it’s not that there’s going to be a drop off, but you almost expect a drop off because he’s so freakin’ good,” Van Zeyl says. “You don’t really know how to move forward without a guy like that.”
Ray is due for a follow-up medical examination on Friday.