MONTREAL – Percival Molson Stadium, especially with an extra 5,000 seats added this year, is not a place for a nervous person positioned behind centre of a visiting team.
Especially if that person happens to be quarterback of a 2-8 team playing behind a bunch of turnstiles on an offensive line which has had him getting pounded into ground round while he played without any people who could catch a pass.
You’d think coming here to play in the scenic stadium on the McGill campus overlooking the Montreal skyline where the Edmonton Eskimos have lost their last two games 50-16 and 40-4 would have him with a serious case of the heebie jeebees.
But the reality is that Ray hasn’t looked forward to a game like the one he’ll play Sunday afternoon against the Montreal Alouettes for several weeks.
And Alouettes coach Marc Trestman says he thinks his team may see a return of the lost confidence of the Eskimos’ quarterback for this game.
“There’s no quarterback in this league I respect more than Ricky Ray,” he said. “He’s a great quarterback who gives them hope.
“He’s taken a lot of hits this year, that’s obvious. He’s had a lot of dropped passes by receivers at a lot of bad times. That was certainly the case in our game in Edmonton.
“They’ve got some people on defence getting healthy now and with Fred Stamps being back, if they can give Ricky Ray time, they’re going to do some damage.”
Ray is remarkable in that he never publicly or privately takes his offensive linemen to task and never gets so frustrated that he stands up and tells it like it is, which is that you can’t fly like an eagle if you’re surrounded by turkeys. He takes the lickings and tries to keep ticking, waiting to see a light at the end of the tunnel and has been doing that since has was MVP of the Grey Cup game in 2005.
And while there is a definite danger that the light coming out of the tunnel from the stadium on the side of Mount Royal is from the train which has run over the Eskimos by a combined count of 90-20 in their last two trips here, Ray is hoping that it’s a light on the helmet of Fred Stamps.
The combination of Stamps coming back and the Eskimos changing their import numbers for this game definitely gives him some tools to work with for the first time in a while.
“Stamps coming back gives him a big weapon and we’re giving him four import receivers,” said Eskimos’ head coach Richie Hall of going to Canadian Calvin McCarty as the feature back and giving Ray Stamps, Kelly Campbell, Jason Barnes and newcomer Marko Mitchell to run routes.
Now if he can just get the protection.
“Everything starts up front,” said Hall. “He’s taken far too many hits.”
Ray sat in the hotel lobby here Saturday being a lot more introspective than usual.
“Fred is our best player on offence. It’s always a big thing to have your best player back in the lineup. He can just plain beat guys. Having him back helps all of our receivers out because they’re going to focus on Fred first. And that just doesn’t help them, it helps me.”
Ray says he’s going into the final eight games of the season with a damn-the-torpedoes attitude regardless of what happens, an attitude he hopes will show on this two-game trip and hopefully rub off on others.
“Having a season like we’ve had can mess with you mentally. Just go out and play. It can’t get any worse,” he said of coming off three of their last four games being against Calgary with a combined score of 144-40.
Getting his confidence back is Job 1 but he’s hoping that comes with getting some weapons back and maybe more protection.
“Sometimes if you don’t have that trust of everybody doing their job, that can get you,” he said of not getting the protection and of all the dropped passes.
He’s going to try to go into this game giving everybody around him his trust and hope everybody else does that with each other.
“Confidence is such a huge thing for a quarterback. I’ve just decided to stop worrying and just play.”