Ricky's rifle good to go

JASON HILLS -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:34 AM ET

It began with little five-yard hitch passes with a Nerf ball back in November.

Six months later, the Nerf ball is gone and Edmonton Eskimos quarterback Ricky Ray has got the zip back in his throwing shoulder.

Yesterday, Ray worked out in front of the media at the Commonwealth Stadium gym for the first time.

"I don't feel anything in my shoulder, which is good. Some of the doctors say you can feel some popping and grinding and I haven't felt any of that," explained Ray.

'CAN'T WAIT'

"I can't wait to get that first hit out of the way, land on it for the first time. It will be good."

Ray had off-season surgery on his shoulder.

He began tossing a Nerf football around in November and immediately experienced some pain that would last until January.

Ray knew that was going to be part of the healing process and getting his shoulder back to the proper strength.

"At first it was a lot different, trying to get used to using one arm and being out of commission there for a while," he said.

FIRST MAJOR INJURY

Ray separated his shoulder Sept. 28 against the Toronto Argonauts. It was the first major injury he has endured as an Eskimo. He has had minor injuries in his football career before, but nothing this serious.

It was unfamiliar territory for the six-year Eskimos gunslinger.

"You quickly realize that when you get hurt the team continues going and you get left behind so I am anxious to get back out there and be a part of the team," said Ray.

"The season doesn't end when your injury happens; they don't stop and postpone games and stop practices. You try to help out as much as you can, but you don't want to be the guy that yaps in everyone's ear."

That's not Ray's style, anyway.

The soft-spoken quarter took his spot on the bench and tried to mentor rookie Stefan Lefors from the sidelines.

"What I tried to do with Stefan was to just go out there and let him play his game," explained Ray.

"I helped him here and there, but on the sidelines you're just an extra set of eyes."

With Ray out of the lineup, the Eskimos posted an 0-5 record.

The opening of training camp is just over a week away and the shoulder is the furthest thing from Ray's mind.

"I feel like I am coming into any other training camp. I am not going to sit there thinking about my shoulder at all. I feel like it never happened," he said.

"I will be going out on the field with a clear mind."

Ray is excited about the off-season changes the Eskimos have made.

RETURN OF MAAS

His old partner in crime Jason Maas is back in the Eskimos fold and the two good friends have spent time this off-season going over the playbook.

"I know (Jason) is going to get along with Stefan real well and we'll go out there and bust our butts and push each other on the field like we always do," said Ray.

After winning two Grey Cups in his first four seasons with the Eskimos, Ray has had to endure some tough times. Last season, he was arguably hit more times than any other quarterback in the league, and it took its toll.

REGAIN SWAGGER

The team stuggled to keep second-half leads and Ray wants nothing more than to help the Esks regain their swagger.

"That's tough to do," he admitted.

"It starts with the coaches. They have to try and brainwash that into us right from the get-go, that we are going to be that kind of team with that kind of attitude.

"Once that is done, we just have to go out and do that on the field.

"When you get into those games, you just have got to do it. That is the only way to get that confidence and swagger back."


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