TORONTO — The Toronto Argonauts have their offensive leader back.
Veteran quarterback Ricky Ray will start Saturday afternoon when Toronto (3-5) hosts the Montreal Alouettes (3-4). The game will complete a home-and-home series between the East Division rivals.
Montreal earned a 21-9 win last Friday and can capture the season series with another victory.
Ray didn’t play last week after suffering a shoulder injury in a 41-24 home loss to Calgary on Aug. 3. Jeff Mathews, who started in Ray’s spot, and Cody Fajardo were a combined 18-of-28 passing for 142 yards.
Ray’s return should provide a major boost to Toronto’s pass-happy offence. Prior to being injured, Ray opened the season with 300 or more yards passing in the Argos’ first six games.
“He’s just an outstanding leader and player and has been an outstanding player on a consistent basis for a very long time,” Argos head coach Marc Trestman said. ”He’s certainly a decorated player … and arguably one of the greatest quarterbacks to play in this league based on what he’s accomplished.”
Ray, 37, is a three-time Grey Cup champion with over 57,000 career passing years. Earlier this year, he surpassed Condredge Holloway as Toronto’s all-time passing leader.
Ray, also the most accurate passer in CFL history, needs three TD strikes to break Holloway’s club record of 98. But personal accomplishments mean little to Ray.
“Obviously when you’re done playing if you have a few records to look back on, it makes it fun,” he said. “The things I’ll remember more are the Grey Cup teams I’ve been on … that’s where the fond memories are.”
Ray missed 15 regular-season games in 2015 recovering from off-season shoulder surgery. He said his shoulder issues have been the result of bad luck.
“It’s just been caught in awkward positions,” he said. “When I first hurt it a few years back I had my arm above my head when I landed, and this year I had my arm going up to throw and got hit from the side.
“If my arm had been down it would’ve just been another hit. Obviously we work hard on pass protection and as a quarterback you’re trained to do your part, which is getting rid of the football in a timely matter. I don’t know, it’s tough to do sometimes.”
Ray isn’t worrying about possibly re-injuring the joint and losing more playing time.
“There’s always a chance for that but you go into every game just worried about the game and you deal with whatever comes your way,” he said. “I think when you start worrying about stuff like that it’s probably time to stop playing.
“It’s a physical game, guys are getting dinged all the time. You just put that out of your mind and try to go out and play hard and see what happens.”
The Argos face a stingy Montreal defence that’s allowing just 22.7 offensive points per game, second only to Calgary (19.0). Ray said the Als force opponents to work for everything they get.
“They don’t give up many big plays,” he said. “They play a lot of zone coverage, they force you to execute every play up and down the field.
“That gets hard on you sometimes offensively because you’ve got to put a long drive together and if you make one or two mistakes it’s the end of the drive. We’ve got find a way to execute better and obviously come up with some big plays that can change field position or get us in a position to score a little bit more often.”
Receiver S.J. Green, who had four catches for 32 yards in his first meeting against his former club last week, said having Ray back will help Toronto’s offence.
“The guys who stepped in did their best and gave us all they could and that’s all we can ask for,” he said. “But to have a guy like Ricky Ray back in the fold, words can’t describe.
“Ricky knows where to go with the ball. He’s the ultimate professional, he’s going to be prepared.”
Green welcomes playing Montreal on consecutive weeks.
“I think that’s a good thing, especially when you lose,” he said. “You get an opportunity to get after them again the next week, you don’t have to wait until later in the season to play them again.
“It’s must-win. At the end of the day, every week is must-win.”