Esks' Ray tough to rattle

DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:41 AM ET

Is Ricky Ray rattled, scared out of his skull by the Stampeders' relentless pass rush?

Too frightened to focus? Spinning in bed, punching his pillow at the prospect of facing another 60 minutes dipping and darting from the path of the men Calgary pays to inflict pain?

Not likely.

Although the Eskimos quarterback was sacked four times, pressured on plenty more occasions and even absorbed some painful hits after getting rid of the ball, he's unlikely to be phased by the attention. In fact, while Ray's production fell dramatically in the second half of the Labour Day Classic, the men doing the chasing say the pivot's poise and cool demeanor remain intact for tomorrow night's rematch at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton.

"You can't rattle him," said defensive tackle Sheldon Napastuk, part of a Stampeders front-seven that corraled Ray four times in Monday's 25-23 loss.

"He's not going to lose any sleep over it. We know that. We've gone against guys like him and (Dave) Dickenson before. We know we've got to come out and do it again and see what happens this week."

With 31 sacks this season, the Stampeders defence is now tied for top spot with Edmonton in that department.

Rahim Abdullah leads the Stampeders with six sacks, including one against the Eskimos, while Napastuk and Demetrious Maxie, along with linebacker John Grace, all have five.

Grace's three-sack outing on Labour Day helped propel him CFL defensive player of the week honours.

To offset the Stampeders pass rush, the Eskimos are expected to reactivate running back Ron McLendon, who had been scratched Monday in favour of newcomer Michael Jenkins, ineffective in the first meeting.

While Ray may have sauntered out of McMahon Stadium three nights ago cradling an ice pack or two for the bus ride home to Edmonton, the cold comfort can't compare to the QB's chilly composure under fire.

"Ricky's a cool, calm quarterback and he's not going to worry about the pressure," said Grace, who earned defensive player recognition four times last season.

"If he did, he would have been throwing some errant passes on Monday because we were getting to him and he was still staying in the pocket and delivering passes for his receivers to make catches. I don't ever expect him to speed up his time clock just because of the pressure. He's going to make his normal reads, stay in the pocket and deliver the ball.

"He's a great quarterback. He was a great quarterback when he was in the league before (an NFL stint) and he's still a great quarterback because of the simple fact that when the pressure comes, he just stands in there and takes the heat, gets back up and runs the next play."

Interceptions are also supposed to be a byproduct of a persistent pass rush, although that failed to materialize Monday. In fact, it's been the defence's shortcoming all season. The Stamps are second-last in the CFL with seven picks, although the secondary has been riddled with injuries and subsequent wholesale changes some weeks. That's contributed to their second-worst status in the giveaway-takeaway category at minus-10.

"Turnovers don't always happen when the ball hits the ground, sometimes it's just a matter of getting the other team's offence off the field," Grace said.

"Our goal is to create turnovers and do things like that but I'd never say it's frustrating because you play defence to stop the offence. Turnovers happen within that but to go out with a goal to create turnovers isn't a realistic game plan."

Adds Napastuk: "There's a cumulative effect to applying pressure but not over the course of a game, it's over the course of a season. You don't start creating lots of turnovers until you have all aspects of the defence working together. Right now our secondary is really getting a feel for it, locking it down and what we're going to see next is picks. That's coming.

"We're hitting people, playing tight coverage, getting after quarterbacks and turnovers are going to come."

Tomorrow night would be a dandy time to start.


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