EDMONTON - It was just before game time Saturday when Eric Tillman's cellphone rang.
It was a call from Orlando. From Kerry Joseph.
"Just before kickoff I got a call from him asking if I could put in a good word for him with Paul LaPolice in Winnipeg," he said of the coach who lost his No. 2 and No. 3 quarterbacks to injury on the weekend.
"I told him 'Kerry, I love you, but do you know who we play next?' "
Kerry Joseph agreed to join the Eskimos as a replacement for injured Ricky Ray Monday evening.
It will be his third time with new Edmonton GM in his career. Tillman had Joseph in Ottawa, won a Grey Cup with him in Saskatchewan and then traded him to Toronto before he'd received his ring.
Ricky Ray is listed as day-to-day. But it's a longshot that he'll be able to play in either of the last two regular season games. He'll likely need Jared Zabransky and Jason Maas to QB the team into the playoffs if he's going to play. Or Joseph, if those two don't get it done.
The results of an MRI and a bone scan show that Ray sustained a second-degree strain of the serratus anterior muscle which connects the upper ribs and shoulder.
Sometimes referred to as the boxer's muscle, it affects his throwing motion and was the reason Ray was unable to play in the Eskimos' 39-24 win over the Saskatchewan Roughriders Saturday.
Not practising all week after taking a physical beating in running for 135 yards to help win the massive game against the B.C. Lions the week before, Ray tried to see if he could play in warm-up prior to the game but didn't take long to find out he wouldn't be able to go.
"It's a highly unusual injury," said new GM Tillman.
"It's the muscle which stabilizes the shoulder blade. It impacts Ricky's right shoulder and, at this point, we are viewing the injury as day-to-day.
"It's a grey area in terms of knowing when he'll be able to play. It's where the ribs and the scapula connect in the back behind the right shoulder. At this point we're classifying it as day to day. More probably it's week to week."
So what do you do now?
Tillman could have bumped everybody up a spot in the rotation, putting Matt Nichols on the roster.
That wouldn't be any worse than Winnipeg for the weekend. The Bombers lost No. 1 Buck Pierce at mid-season and then watched both Steven Jyles and Alex Brink suffer season-ending injuries against Toronto as Winnipeg was mathematically eliminated from playoff contention.
Fourth string Joey Elliott has already been declared the starter Saturday with his back-ups to be announced.
Nichols is supposed to be the real deal, another in the long list of Eskimo quarterback finds. The late cut from the Dallas Cowboys is from Ray's hometown of Redding, Calif. and played at Eastern Washington University with Eskimos excellent defensive end Greg Peach.
But the guy is on the practice roster and hasn't played a down, even in the preseason, of Canadian football.
What do you do if Zabransky and Maas go down?
That's why Tillman called Joseph back and told him there was a plane ticket waiting for him at Orlando International Airport.
Tillman said you remember the golden rule of being a general manager.
"You hope for the best and prepare for the worst. Not in that order. Joseph?
"You'd think, considering I traded him, he wouldn't have much to do with me. But we've been in regular contact. I know he's in great shape."
Joseph won the CFL Award as most outstanding player in 2007 and led the Roughriders to the Grey Cup. He completed 267 of 459 passes for 4,002 yards. Considering Tillman's fingerprints being all over a new focus on the Eskimos running the football -- and four wins in the last five games doing it -- Joseph leading all quarterbacks in rushing with 737 yards on 90 attempts with 13 touchdowns is not to be ignored.
Joseph was a phenomenal bust with the Argos the last two years and was cut in February of this year with no interest in anybody obtaining his services for the future.