Eskimos get their man

Ricky Ray was back in Green and Gold Monday, May 16, 2005 after signing a new deal with the...

Ricky Ray was back in Green and Gold Monday, May 16, 2005 after signing a new deal with the Edmonton Eskimos. (Edmonton Sun/Perry Mah)

GERRY PRINCE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:06 AM ET

Perhaps it was coincidence the press conference was staged a stone's throw from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police K Division headquarters.

Like the RCMP, the Edmonton Eskimos routinely get their man.

A tag team effort by president and CEO Hugh Campbell and rookie head coach Danny Maciocia coupled with the Esks' sizable war chest led to the repatriation of quarterback Ricky Ray yesterday.

Ray, who led the Esks to a Grey Cup title in 2003, signed a four-year deal estimated to be worth $400,000 a season minutes before he was trotted out for the media at the Petroleum Club. Toronto and Hamilton also made a pitch for Ray's services. In the end, Edmonton prevailed.

"Being a free agent, you want to make sure you look at all your options," said the 25-year-old Ray, who was released by the New York Jets on May 5. "I definitely got some offers from a few other clubs.

"From there, you've got to sit back and think where you're going to be the most successful. And where you're going to have the best opportunity to go out and win games. You want to be somewhere where you're going to be happy and I felt that this was the place. So, I made my decision to come back here."

Neither Ray nor his agent, Ken Staninger, would discuss the dollar amount of the contract, which also includes a roughly $200,000 non-refundable signing bonus.

What Toronto put on the table after Hamilton bowed out of the bidding is also taboo.

"It was definitely close," Staninger said of the offers, refusing to identify the other interested parties. "I'm not going to tell you what the numbers are but they are significant. Edmonton was forthright. They had their guy and they wanted him and they went and got him. Hugh and Danny both handled themselves very, very professionally."

PAID TO WIN

According to Maciocia, Jason Maas is still No. 1 on Edmonton's depth chart. Regardless of how much or how little they're paying Ray, Maciocia's 40-man roster won't be determined by the payroll. "I'm paid to win football games," Maciocia said. "When we line up, we line up to win football games."

By the time Ray hits the option year of his contract he'll be 28. Ray says it's too early to even think about that - although it's not altogether clear whether he's abandoned his NFL dream entirely.

OPEN-MINDED

"I don't want to say 'yeah' and I don't want to say 'no,' " said Ray, who earned the CFL minimum of $32,500 during his first two seasons with the Esks.

"I'm pretty open-minded about a lot of things. I know right now that I'm very happy to be back up here and be given a chance to play again."

Going from having a shot at the backup spot in New York to No. 4 on the Jets' depth chart was tough for Ray to swallow. Until landing with the Jets, he'd never been anything but No. 1 since taking up the game as an eight-year-old.

Although Ray profited financially and professionally from his New York experience, the end of the line came when the Jets signed veteran Jay Fiedler in March.

"As far as the rust factor, only time will tell," said Ray, who counts Maas as a close friend.

"We've got some great quarterbacks here. There's going to be competition anywhere you go and no matter what team you go to.

"I think the thing that works so well here is we leave it all on the field. We all go out and compete but we all have each other's back. We try and encourage each other whoever is out on the field. I definitely think it's going to be a good situation. We'll just go out and compete."

RAY FACT FILE

HEIGHT: 6'3"

WEIGHT: 210 pounds

THROWS: Right-handed

AGE: 25

BORN: Happy Valley, California

RESIDES: Redding, California

CFL EXPERIENCE: Two seasons

CFL GAMES PLAYED: 36

GREY CUP APPEARANCES: 2002, 2003

CFL STATS: Completed 578 of 875 attempts for 7,631 yards, 59 touchdowns, 22 interceptions and a 108.1 efficiency rating

BEST CFL PERFORMANCE: Good on 25 of 38 attempts for 366 yards and three touchdowns Sept. 6, 2002, versus Calgary

COLLEGE: Sacramento State University (1999 and 2000), Shasta Community College (1997-98)

OTHER PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE: New York Jets (NFL) 2004, Fresno (arenafootball2) 2002, San Francisco 49ers (NFL) 2001


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