QB Ray dodges a bullet

Eskimos QB Ricky Ray is injured by Roughriders' Amariah Farrow during pre-season action on...

Eskimos QB Ricky Ray is injured by Roughriders' Amariah Farrow during pre-season action on Thursday. SUN MEDIA/Jason Franson

TERRY JONES -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:21 AM ET

Before the game, the Edmonton Eskimos raised a giant banner emblazoned with the number 13 on the end zone flag pole.

It was supposed to represent the 13th man, not the 13 Grey Cups they've won. But early in the second quarter it represented continuing bad luck for coach Danny Maciocia and the team that has suffered through two straight injury-filled seasons.

A minute or two after an injured Ricky Ray was taken off the field, the fire alarm went off in the press box.

As one wag pointed out, this was supposed to be the year when the offence wasn't supposed to look like the fire drill it has resembled in the last two seasons.

For a few minutes there, Maciocia, Ray and 33,508 other folks were worried.

SCARED

"It scared me a little bit. My neck was twisted a bit. I made sure I laid still," said Ray.

"I got my head ripped off out there. I had tingles down my arm. It's not fun. But I think I'll be O.K.

" It's a little burner. I'm just thankful it's nothing serious," added the No. 1 quarterback when the game was over and the Eskimos had rolled to a 37-7 laugher over a bunch of guys who will likely be cut this weekend by the defending Grey Cup champions.

"For about 30 seconds it felt like 'Here we go again!' " said Maciocia.

"He could have gone back in for the second half but we decided not to send him in.

"When he came back to the sidelines, I asked him if he felt he got enough work out there. He said 'I think I did.' That made me feel much better."

Does he believe Ray will start next Saturday in the opener in Regina?

"Yes, I do."

Still, this wasn't something you wanted to see happen.

It happened at 6:22 of the second quarter. Dek Bake, Saskatchewan's rookie defensive lineman who was a week late showing up to training camp, was almost as late hitting Ray - who was already laying on the field flat on his back after being pressured by Kitawana Jones.

Bake was given the penalty for unnecessary roughness for a late hit to the head, although there could have been two penalties.

"Some of the players were saying the defender was picking him up by the facemask and another defender came in and hit him," said Maciocia.

"It felt like he grabbed my helmet. I'm sure he kind of ripped my head back. But I think it was the hit that did it. Or maybe a combination of both," said Ray.

Ray lay sprawled on the field for the longest time, flexing his left hand.

When he finally left the field, he pointed to his left wrist. But when he got to the bench, the focus was on his neck.

After Jason Mass took the Eskimos down the field for a touchdown to make it 24-2, Ray finally took off his helmet, pulled off his jersey and removed his flak jacket.

After missing the final five games of the previous season when he separated his throwing shoulder against the Toronto Argos, Ray was left at home when the Eskimos played their first preseason game in Calgary last week.

He ended up with barely more than a quarter of game action coming off the injury.

Playing with most of the players expected to start the season for the Eskimos on offence, Ray completed 10 of 18 passes, with one TD.

GOOD NEWS

The good news was Maas went seven for seven for 135 yards the rest of the half.

But this is Ricky Ray's football team. And this was where and when Edmonton fans were going to get a look at him playing in front of his his new-improved offensive line.

Playing against a Roughriders defence with four players who will likely start against the Eskimos in the season opener next Saturday in Regina, it was hard to come away and say, hey, everything is O.K.

"He did O.K.," said Maciocia. "It would have been better if he'd gone the whole half and into the third quarter. He would have been sharper. But he's just going to get better."

And the offensive line?

"Overall they did a pretty good job. They did a good job on second and long."

The injury to Ray, if nothing else, will send Maciocia into the pick-the-team session today thinking not just about talent but about depth.

"We need depth. The last two years we haven't been satisfied with the depth we've had here," he said.


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