Argos’ Ricky Ray more concerned about division race than another milestone

Argos quarterback Ricky Ray was true to form Friday, focussing more on his team’s fight for first place in the Canadian Football League’s East Division than a major personal milestone.

But Ray, who will turn 38 on Sunday, couldn’t help but crack a half-smile when it was mentioned Friday that he is on the threshold of 60,000 passing yards for his career.

“It’s definitely pretty cool, I think,” Ray said as the Argos wrapped up a walkthrough prior to a pivotal game against Winnipeg on Saturday at BMO Field.

“I’m not placing much in this moment, it’s for when I’m done playing, and when you think about how lucky I’ve been, to have all the great coaches I’ve had, to be playing with all the great players I’ve been with, and to be playing in this league . . . definitely, there’ll be stories for my grand kids.”

The Argos can control their destiny in the East by winning their final two games over the Bombers on Saturday and in B.C. on Nov. 4. Ottawa, while one point ahead of Toronto, has just one game left, next Friday against Hamilton.

Ray’s date with the history books appears all but certain. He needs 335 yards to hit the 60,000-yard plateau, one shared by just three other quarterbacks in CFL history.

Ray also needs 218 yards to reach 5,000 passing yards for this season. He’s accomplished that feat three other times in his career, but not since 2008 when he was with Edmonton.

“I hope I make it to 38 (years old),” Ray said, jokingly, when all his milestones, including his 38th birthday, were run by him Friday at practice. “At this point, it’s trying to play the best you can and see what happens.”

Ray never mentions it, but he has been the most-sacked quarterback in the CFL this season, and he missed one game after a crushing blow to his right (throwing) shoulder. He might catch a bit of a break this weekend, as the Blue Bombers will be without defensive lineman Jamaal Westerman and cornerback Maurice Leggett.

Winnipeg will also be without leading receiver Darvin Adams, fourth in the CFL with 1,120 yards, but the 7-9 Argos aren’t about to underestimate their 11-4 opponents. The Bombers recently added former NFL receiver Chris Givens, who played four seasons with St. Louis and Baltimore, and he could take up some of the slack as a deep threat.

“They’ve got step-in guys who are waiting for an opportunity to show what they can do,” Argos cornerback Akwasi Owusu-Ansah said. “They will be a challenge for sure.”

Owusu-Ansah is back in the secondary after missing several weeks. Running back James Wilder Jr., out last week with an upper-body injury, also returns.

Toronto’s biggest concern might be Winnipeg’s offensive line, which many consider to be the best in the CFL.

“They have big body guys who enjoy being physical,” Argos linebacker Bear Woods said. “Their offensive production starts with that offensive line, they’re big and nasty, they rush block as a group, so it’s going to be a big challenge for us.

“But if you would have told me back in May if we’d be playing (this weekend) for first place, I’d have been happy. This is the game we need to get into first place.”