Ricky Ray admits retirement was on his mind but returns to Argos

Ricky Ray isn’t done just yet.

The veteran quarterback signed a one-year deal with the Toronto Argonauts on Friday, ending two-plus months of uncertainty regarding his football future. The 38-year-old California native seriously considered retirement but for the second straight year found he still had the overwhelming urge to continue playing.

“It (retirement) definitely was on my mind,” Ray said during a conference call. “I knew really early on last year that I wanted to come back and play but this year it just took me a bit more time.

“I was kind of back and forth a little bit but in the end I still have it, I still have that desire to come back and play and try to help this team. It was just a feeling in my gut and when I had the feeling, you just know deep down.”

The six-foot-three, 214-pound Ray led Toronto to a Grey Cup title last year, a CFL-record fourth as a starter and second with the Argos, to cap its first season under head coach Marc Trestman. But following the club’s stunning 27-24 win over the Calgary Stampeders in November, Ray said he needed time to ponder his future.

Trestman had a feeling Ray would return.

“We never doubted it as a staff and organization but it certainly was important for Ricky to have the time and space with family and those closest to him to make this decision,” Trestman said. “This is really going to set the tone for our off-season.”

The news wasn’t all good for the Argos. Receiver DeVier Posey, the Grey Cup MVP and a pending free agent, will reportedly sign with the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens.

Ray enjoyed a resurgence under Trestman. After being limited to just 12 games over two injury-plagued campaigns, Ray made 17 starts and registered his first 5,000-yard passing season since ’08 in leading Toronto (9-9) atop the East Division after finishing last in ’16 with a 5-13 mark.

The day Trestman was hired he named Ray his starter. Ray responded by leading Toronto back to the CFL playoffs and being named the East Division’s outstanding player for a third time.

“I enjoyed last year so much being able to work with Marc and the rest of the staff,” Ray said. “I’ve learned so much not only about this offence playing quarterback but just coaching and lifestyle.

“He does a great job of teaching us so many things. I feel like I’ve still got a lot to learn from him.”

Still, in December the Argos acquired quarterback James Franklin from the Edmonton Eskimos and signed the 26-year-old to a two-year deal. Ray’s return gives Toronto a potent 1-2 punch under centre but Trestman made it clear Ray remains the starter.

“We’re coming in and Ricky is our quarterback,” he said. “We’re going to do everything we can to lift James up and all the other guys in the room.

“They’ll all have opportunities to work but our focus will be to get the guys around Ricky ready to play and to get Ricky to play for the season.”

Ray, a three-time CFL all-star, is looking forward to working with the dynamic Franklin.

“I’m definitely excited to work with him,” Ray said. “We’re going to try to make ourselves the best we can.

“If you call it grooming or whatever, we’re always on a mission to be the best players we can and to help each other out.”

Ray has played in 233 career CFL games over his 15-year career. He’s the league’s fourth-leading passer (60,429 yards) behind Anthony Calvillo (79,816), Damon Allen (72,381) and Henry Burris (63,227).

Ray’s return is certainly a positive development for Toronto. Last month, running back James Wilder Jr. and defensive lineman Victor Butler both expressed frustration with the Argos for not allowing them to pursue lucrative NFL opportunities.

Wilder Jr. and Butler both have a year remaining on the CFL deals. Ray plans to reach out to his teammates.

“I think the best thing I could do would be just to reach out to them and tell them I’m here for them and if they need anything to feel free to give me a call,” he said. “For me to offer up advice or tell them what I’m thinking, I think that would kind of be uncalled for.”