Ricky Ray’s laid-back personality has helped him deal with Grey Cup week’s hot-button topic: His football future.
The 15-year veteran quarterback leads the Toronto Argonauts into the CFL title game Sunday against Calgary. Many have drawn parallels this week between Ray’s situation and that of Henry Burris, who retired shortly after leading the Ottawa Redblacks to their 39-33 overtime win over the heavily favoured Stampeders in last year’s Grey Cup.
Ray, 38, has been a model of calm throughout his CFL career. The six-foot-three, 210-pound Californian is a man of few words on and off the field and rarely shows any emotion regardless of the circumstance.
It’s an approach he says has helped him deal with the barrage of questions regarding his CFL future.
“I’m not an outwardly, show-my-emotions type of guy, that’s just my personality,” Ray said Thursday. “To be honest. I try not to overthink things, I try not to let my emotions out of control.
“I’m getting so many questions about, ‘Is this your last year? Henry did it. What if you do this? What if you do that?’ I’m just trying to win a game, I’m just trying to go out there with my team and win a Grey Cup. There’s no other reason or motivation or grand thing that I want to do other than just win a game.”
It’s been a resurgent ’17 campaign for Ray, chasing a fourth career Grey Cup title and second with Toronto. After appearing in 12 games the previous two seasons because of injuries, Ray made 17 starts this year, finishing second overall in CFL passing (5,546 yards), his first 5,000-yard season since ’08 and fourth of his illustrious career.
The Argos, completing their first season under head coach Marc Trestman, posted a 9-9 record to finish atop the East Division. Last weekend, Ray rallied Toronto to an exciting 25-21 East Division final win over Saskatchewan to earn the Argos their first Grey Cup appearance since beating Calgary in the historic 100th CFL title game at Rogers Centre in 2012.
“I haven’t made a decision,” Ray said. “For me, the last few years personally with injuries and some of the stuff I’ve gone through I don’t know if I am playing next year.
“I really didn’t know what to expect coming into this year. I just wanted to give it everything I could and just re-evaluate at the end of the season.”
The day he was hired, Trestman went out on a limb and endorsed Ray as his starter. It was a bold move considering Ray’s injury history but the quarterback said Trestman’s clarity has played a big role in Toronto’s turnaround.
“There’s never anything not talked about that you wish was talked about,” Ray said. “You’re not wondering through the week, ‘What if this happens?’
“He’s always addressing everything and there’s no elephants in the room. It just clears your mind as a player, there’s nothing to worry about because you know coach is thinking about that for you . . . as a player is you know exactly what to expect.”
Once again, Calgary heads into the Grey Cup a solid favourite after posting a league-best 13-4-1 and sweeping both games this season against Toronto. But Ray remains undeterred.
“They’ve got a ton of experience, they’ve been playing in big games for the last while,” he said. “But that’s why you play the game, you never know what’s going to happen on game day.
“We’re preparing to play our best game and go out there and get it done Sunday.”