Esks have Ray of hope

Edmonton Eskimos pivot Ricky Ray loosens up his arm at practice yesterday. (Edmonton Sun/Ryan...

Edmonton Eskimos pivot Ricky Ray loosens up his arm at practice yesterday. (Edmonton Sun/Ryan Jackson)

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:21 AM ET

In a season gone horribly wrong for the Edmonton Eskimos, the word HERO is rarely used around the locker room.

But head coach Danny Maciocia is using that term for quarterback Ricky Ray.

"He is my hero this week based on what happened to him Monday," said the coach, looking back to the Labour Day drubbing. Ray was sacked five times and repeatedly ran for his life against the Calgary Stampeders.

"I thought that was one of the best games I have seen Ricky Ray play under the circumstances. He was nothing short of unbelievable.

"He made some throws when he was getting hurried. He got flushed out and made things happen with his feet, which is not something he's renowned for.

"And he took some shots and just got back up ... and played that next play as if it would be the last play of the football game."

Indeed, Ray led the offence to 379 yards of total production and pulled a stunning touchdown out of his hat when he scrambled on a broken play to find Trevor Gaylor 30 yards away.

But the bottom line is that Ray can't continue to take the wicked punishment he did on Monday - and for that reason, Maciocia is demanding his offensive line improve right now.

Because if it doesn't improve, the offence will continue to struggle and the highest-paid quarterback in the CFL could become a broken down mess.

"We have got to do a better job up front," said the coach, who is vowing changes in the system for tomorrow night's rematch with the Stamps at Commonwealth Stadium.

"We're going to try to mix it up, change up our protections."

And Ray is also calling for his line to improve - which is rare to hear from the personable and upbeat pivot.

"Looking at the film, there were some pretty bad hits and there were a lot of them," he said.

Like the vicious smack he took from defensive end Rahim Abdullah.

"They do a lot of different things up front, moving guys around and giving you a different look all the time and bringing pressure from all directions," Ray explained.

"But to be honest the worst hits are the ones where they get you and drive you into the ground ... and those are the ones that you can feel rattle your bones.

"That (Abdullah hit) was just a nice pop and not landing on me."

The criticism that is landing on the doorstep of the offensive line is getting through. It's being heard - loud and clear.

"As an offensive line, we didn't have our best game," admitted left tackle Joe McGrath.

"But we have to out there and play better ... go out there and play our ass off (tomorrow)."

It appears the line will have do that without their top player and leader, Dan Comiskey.

Wearing a ball cap instead of a helmet at practice, the left guard is clearly still dealing with post-concussion symptoms.

However, playing behind a revamped O-line against the same defence that pasted him and chased him on Labour Day isn't scaring Ray.

"I expect to be sniffing the grass - it's part of the game," he said, referring to being belted to the ground at Commonwealth.

"But to be honest I don't worry about it. I just look at it as part of the game."


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