Ray an Esks rushing threat?

Ricky Ray doesn't mind letting Kerry take the short-yardage scoring opportunities, but he's not...

Ricky Ray doesn't mind letting Kerry take the short-yardage scoring opportunities, but he's not averse to stretching out a rushing opportunity a few extra yards. (QMI Agency file)

Gerry Moddejonge, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:55 PM ET

EDMONTON - Sometimes getting into the end zone isn’t the most important thing in football.

Edmonton Eskimos quarterback Ricky Ray has physically crossed the goal line once this season, and he waited until Week 17 to do it.

Ray rushed nine yards to score the major in last week’s 31-24 win in Toronto, tucking the ball before scrambling out of the pocket while his receivers were blanketed in coverage.

“They bracketed our slot receivers and there really wasn’t anything there,” said Ray. “So I stepped up and had an opportunity to run.”

He has only scored a single rushing touchdown once before in his career, which came in his rookie season in 2002, and the only time he was held out of the end zone entirely was in 2007.

This season has seen backup pivot Kerry Joseph come in on short-yardage situations on his way to being tied for the team lead with six rushing touchdowns on QB keepers.

Ray said he is only too happy to sacrifice any glory as well as the accompanying bruises.

“That tradeoff is fine with me,” he said. “I’ve had times in my career when I’ve had nine one-yard touchdowns and those are always good to have on the stats sheet, but definitely I don’t miss having to sneak on third-and-one.

“Putting my head down in there and taking some extra hits — I’ll let Kerry do that.”

That being said, Ray isn’t afraid to stretch out a few more yards for six points when he sees it. Especially when he doesn’t even get touched, like last week.

“I think a lot of times teams forget about me back there because I’m not the biggest run threat. Sometimes they roll the dice and say, ‘He’s not going to run,’ and sometimes you have to do that as a quarterback.”

Heck, he even dove into the paint head-first.

“At the time, I was like, ‘It feels like these guys are converging on me, I’d better get in there as quick as I can,’ ” he said. “But when you watch it on film, there weren’t too many guys too close.”

Perhaps it was inspired by the rugby World Cup, which wrapped up last weekend.

“Yeah,” Ray said. “There has been a lot of rugby on TV.”

Aside from his touchdown on the ground, Ray threw for two more on his way to a 347-yard passing performance that saw him complete 17 of 29 attempts and earn his first CFL offensive player of the week honour since the 2008 playoffs.

“It’s definitely a team game out there and I’m only a part of what happens,” said Ray, who was helped by 100-yard games by running back Jerome Messam and slotback Fred Stamps. “Receivers have to get open and catch the ball and you’ve got to have pass protection as well.”

The nine-year veteran is currently third in the league in passing yards, needing just 21 more to reach the 4,000 mark for the first time since 2009.

gerry.moddejonge@sunmedia.ca

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