EDMONTON - Only in the CFL.
The Edmonton Eskimos might be the ones who are kicking off the 2012 season at home in Commonwealth Stadium on Friday, but it will be the visiting Toronto Argonauts who will have the honour of getting their offensive starters introduced.
The home side will defer and name their starting defence. And with good reason. After all, it’s not every year the Green and Gold’s home opener features the former face of the franchise wearing the opposing team’s jersey.
Ricky Ray will be making his 10th consecutive regular-season start at Commonwealth (Jared Zabransky started in his place in a 39-24 victory over the Saskatchewan Roughriders on Oct. 23, 2010, due to injury), but this will be the first one he will get dressed for in the visitor’s locker-room.
If Eskimos fans were left feeling blue seeing Ray suit up for the Double Blue in the preseason, they will have a chance to respond in person — one way or the other — on Saturday.
“I will respond nicely to him and I think everyone should,” said Kavis Reed, who enjoyed his rookie season as a CFL head coach last year with Ray quarterbacking the Eskimos to their best campaign since the 2005 Grey Cup. “Ricky Ray is a consummate pro. Ricky Ray did not ask to be traded, as an organization we traded Ricky Ray.
“Even when he was traded, although I knew he was disappointed, he was a consummate professional. That will never change in Ricky Ray, I hope he gets a standing ovation.
“I’m going to give him one. He is a young man who deserves the utmost respect and he is going to get that from this football team — until the whistle blows.”
The biggest piece of the other side of that Dec. 12 trade is Steven Jyles, who was named as Edmonton’s starter heading into this week’s preparation.
“It doesn’t matter who I was traded for, it doesn’t matter which team I’m on,” said Jyles, who began his pro career in Edmonton in 2006 and ‘07 before journeying east to Saskatchewan, Winnipeg and Toronto. “When it comes to me establishing myself in this league, everyone is always watching Steven Jyles so I have to go out this year and prove myself as a legitimate starter.”
The other half of the Eskimos top aerial connection since 2009, Fred Stamps, will be watching Ray play from his vantage point on the sidelines for the first time on Saturday.
“Coming into training camp, it was weird not seeing him around. Watching him in the preseason, it was weird seeing him in (another coloured No.) 15. And to see him in person, it will be weird again,” Stamps said. “But Ricky, he’s going to come to win, so we can’t just focus on Ricky, Ricky, Ricky. He’s coming here to win and we’ve got to focus on the Toronto Argonauts and their defence.”
And maybe one other player on Toronto’s offence, which also includes former teammate in slotback Jason Barnes.
“Right now, as a receiving corps we don’t like Jason Barnes,” Stamps laughed, winking at the television cameras. “Nah, I’m just playing. That’s my buddy, man.”