Ricky Ray is invested in the Edmonton Eskimos more than ever.
A new management regime under Eric Tillman forced the first-string quarterback to renegotiate his contract in the off-season if he wanted to remain with the team.
Although the Eskimos weren’t willing to pay the more-than $500,000 he was scheduled to make in his contract this year, a source within the organization said there was interest elsewhere in the league willing to pay top dollar for Ray’s services, including the Toronto Argonauts.
It took two months of negotiations, but rather than leave the only CFL club he’s ever played for on the way to a pair of Grey Cup championships, Ray sacrificed what the source pegged at $150,000, in order to sign a contract extension on Jan. 22.
“It’s just about playing where you want to play,” Ray said during Eskimos physical testing on the indoor practice field Saturday. “Trying to be here to be a part of something. Contracts are always changing from year to year. I’m coming off a sub-par year and knew I had to make some changes and I was willing to do that.”
Especially if it meant more cap room to improve the supporting cast around Ray, who is the focal point in the rebuilding effort.
“I want to be a part of what they’re building here and I want to be an Edmonton Eskimo. I want to get this thing turned around and moving in the right direction and be able to compete again,” said Ray, who is under contract through the 2013 season. “I’m just glad to be a part of the puzzle and have some support.
“I just listened to what they had to say and I knew I wanted to be back here. We just made it work. Hopefully it helps us out and we can get out here and compete again and try to get another Grey Cup.”
Tillman said re-signing Ray was the most important decision he’s made since joining the Eskimos, and after releasing backups Jared Zabransky and Jason Maas, questions no longer remain about how much playing time Ray will be asked to share this year.
But Ray doesn’t take too much comfort in that.
“It’s all about performance. You can say that as much as you want, I’ve heard that a million times in the past,” he said.
“If you’re not playing well or the team’s not playing well and they want to make a change, you’ve just got to realize that.
“So you come into every year not relaxed too much and listening to that too much, you just take it and try and go out there and work hard and know that you’ve got to perform well.”
RAY OF SUNSHINE: With all the changes going on with the Eskimos, the biggest one for Ray came on March 24, when he and his wife, Allyson, added a teammate of their own to their family with their first child, daughter Chloe Samantha.
“She’s doing really good. She’s sleeping well, eating well, growing, all the things you want to have happen,” Ray said. “It’s cool. You’ve got to adjust a little bit but it’s just a great experience.”