June 25, 2012
Ray adjusting to non-Esks shockQB returns to Commonwealth Stadium Saturday for the first time as a non-Eskimo
By TERRY JONES, QMI Agency
EDMONTON - Ricky Ray had just completed his first regular season practice toward playing what is being billed as ‘The Ricky Ray Game' back in Edmonton.
"I'm kinda getting braced for it," he said on his cellphone after he left the field in Toronto Monday afternoon.
"All the extra media ...
"Probably the same questions all week ...
"I understand it's part of the process. But there sure is a lot going through my mind."
Ray says he's been through some of the stages associated with grieving.
Shock. Hurt. Anger.
And he knows he has to get this game behind him, Saturday at Commonwealth Stadium against the team he played with for nine seasons, to get completely through to the part that is acceptance.
Quite likely he'll get to that before the fans in Edmonton, who haven't come close to getting ready to going forward to the future with Steven Jyles.
Hurt. That's the one Ray decided he had the toughest time with.
"It's the idea that they didn't think you were the guy to win games, to take them back to the Grey Cup," he said.
"For sure I was rocked by that."
Understandable, when you consider some of the offensive lines he's played behind here in recent times and the number of licks he took for the team as they changed coaches, general managers and an incredible number of players for an organization that used to pride itself on stability.
"I was just shocked," said the 32-year-old, who completed 3,225 of 4,828 passes for 40,529 yards and 66.8%, 210 touchdowns against 130 interceptions and a 96.1 QB efficiency rating.
"I just didn't expect that. I didn't see that coming."
Ready to head back to Edmonton six months later, Ray says he really should have seen it coming.
"Eric Tillman doesn't have a history with me," he said of the GM who traded him for Jyles, Grant Shaw and a draft pick.
"I'm definitely not his kind of quarterback."
Ray said he'll be thinking of a lot of stuff this week.
"Different dressing room," he said, laughing about one he hadn't really thought about until this week.
"I've been in there a few times to sign footballs and stuff," he said of the cramped quarters which are a complete contrast to the state-of-the-art Eskimos dressing room.
"I'll be on a different side of the field ...
"It's just going to be different all around."
The big thing is not that, though.
"I've been playing in front of those fans for so long," he said.
"I don't think many are going to be cheering for me now. If they are, it probably won't be too loud."
Ray said having from December to June to get used to this has at least made him appreciate some things even more now that he looks back.
"I was lucky to be in one spot so long.
"When I get there I'm going to definitely want to thank all the fans there, all the people of Edmonton for the years I had there.
"I just loved playing there so much."
Ray paused a moment and then laughed.
"And I learned to hate the other teams in the CFL," he said.
"All of a sudden, bang, I'm on another team with a new history."
Ray said there's one thing he always used to do before a game in Commonwealth Stadium.
"Every time I'd step into the stadium I'd look at the names up there," he said of the players of the Eskimos Wall of Honour on the facade of the upper deck.
"I wasn't thinking about my name going up there or anything like that. It was to think of what they did to pave the way before you and stuff like that. It made it kind of motivational to want to do the same. It's hard to explain, but when I came to the team, there was a real veteran core with the Eskimos and those guys impressed me so much with how they didn't want to play anywhere else.
"That's kind of going to be the hardest thing."
He probably won't look up there this time. But he can't help but look back.
"We had some high highs and some low lows," said Ray, who quarterbacked the Eskimos to three Grey Cup games in his first three years in the league, winning in 2003 and 2005 and being named Grey Cup MVP in 2005, to being QB of the team when the North American pro sports record of 34 consecutive years in the playoffs came to an end.
But that was yesterday. And yesterday is gone.
As the Argos watch film of the Eskimos and put the game plan in to play in Edmonton, Ray knows interviews like this are going to add to the challenge of the week, because it's a time for moving on.
"You have to forget and bring it to a new city, a new team, new teammates and new coaches."
If there's one game of his career that Ray hopes he's able to treat the same as he's been able to treat every other game, he hopes this is it.
"My approach to every game in my career has been to treat every game the same. I've been able to park the emotional stuff.
"I want to win this football game. I definitely want to win this game. But, while I know it's going to be a very different week, I intend to take the field and treat it like it's like another game."
It'll be interesting to see how Edmonton fans treat it.
Will they come out of the sense of 'The Ricky Ray Game' being something of a special event? Will they come to cheer for the Eskimos as always? Will they come to cheer for Ricky Ray one last time? Or will they not come at all?
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