The Argos are waiting patiently as quarterback Rick Ray takes the time to go through the process of deciding what’s next.
“We’ve had some very thorough conversations. He’s left the door open. He still has medical stuff to do, he had to get medical approval, pass some tests, some of it’s on his own to get taken care of,” Toronto general manager Jim Popp said Friday.
“That’s been the extent of it, that was the end of January going into free agency, I had a thorough conversation with him, Corey [Chamblin] did and it was just left to that but a decision made, he’s the only one that can do that.”
Ray was injured when he was taken down during the third quarter of the Argos home opener last June. He lay on the turf for over 10 minutes as medical personnel isolated his neck and loaded him onto a cart. He spent two nights at a Toronto hospital undergoing tests and left with a brace on his neck. He has not played or practiced since.
“He sees a lot of specialists, it’s not our doctors. Then there are some things that even after the specialists clear him that he still has to go take further tests. There are two different segments to this, it’s his current situation then further tests to know really if he were to play again would he be cleared. I think that’s part of the process that you’d sit back and watch,” Popp said.
“If he does decide to play he may not decide that until May, nobody knows, maybe June. If he’s not going to play, as it is with anybody, whether you’re a football player or any career: ‘this is what I want to do and I’m done.'”
The veteran passer won a record fourth Grey Cup in 2017, capping a comeback season that saw Ray throw for 5,546 yards – his highest total since 2008 – and 28 touchdowns while missing just one game.
“If someone doesn’t go through training camp it makes it a very difficult situation. Evaluating where people are, a lot of that would be the structure of a contract,” Popp said. “You don’t have to get your cap until the end of the year so you have plenty of time to restructure and do things to make something work.”
There could be an opportunity where Ray signs as a third-string quarterback behind likely starter James Franklin and whoever wins the backup job while starting the transition to the coaching ranks.
“I think we’d have to discuss what that role is,” Popp said. “If he were to play or continue playing then I think he’d be open for about anything we’d have a discussion with.
“We’d love to have him back. He’s just a tremendous, respected person in the room not just as a person but as a leader when he is on the field. He’d be tremendous help and teacher to anybody if he were playing a different role but it’s all hypothetical.”
So while the team is willing to keep the door open for Ray, the realities of football mean they have to look towards the future.
“From our end, we don’t expect anything,” Popp said. As an organization, you’ve got to move forward until you know for certain.”