TORONTO - Ricky Ray returns to the only place he’s called his football home, a familiar place that will bring its share of unfamiliarity when Toronto’s starting quarterback begins his run as an Argo this Saturday.
For Ray, at least he won’t have to wait long as the memories of playing in Edmonton will be replayed, his off-season trade revisited and his legacy in Edmonton debated.
“The way it’s been set up, I laughed a little bit,’’ Ray said on Monday. “I guess they want to sell tickets.
“On the other hand, it’s nice to get it out of the way so early and get it over with and just play football.”
At the end of the day, playing football is what Ray does best.
His calming presence in the huddle and his ability to deliver the football down field are attributes that have separated Ray from most of his CFL peers.
He’s never been one to ruffle feathers and stir the pot.
Only in time will Edmonton begin to properly assess the trade that sent Ray to the Argos in a package that fetched the Eskimos a backup quarterback in Steven Jyles who will start against Toronto.
Jyles never got into a rhythm as an Argo, forced to learn on the fly as a shoulder surgery prevented him from taking any reps during camp.
What the Eskimos coveted most was cap flexibility in a league where every penny must be spent wisely.
The Argos simply needed a legitimate quarterback.
In Ray, the Argos have one.
On Saturday, a glimpse of what might unfold will be provided.
“To be honest, I don’t know what’s going to be on my mind,’’ Ray said of his return to the Alberta capital. “I’m going into it by treating it like it’s a normal football game, but I do have a lot of great memories there and I have met a lot of great people who I’m friends with.
“When it comes down to it, it’s another football game and it’s important to keep your mind in the same state you normally would. You have to focus on what you do.”
Argo players voted Ray team captain, an honour that means Ray will accompany Jordan Younger (defence) and Noel Prefontaine (special teams) to midfield for the pre-game coin toss.
Given his experience at Commonwealth Stadium, Ray would be surprised if a downpour doesn’t occur.
At the same time, a pouring of emotions is expected.
“I’m not too worried about the fans because they’re good fans,’’ Ray said of the Edmonton faithful, among the most passionate in the league. “They support the CFL really well and I had a great time playing over there.
“I’m thankful for all the support they’ve given me, but now I’m on the other side. Who knows what’s going to happen. I’m sure they’re not going to be cheering too hard for me.”
As an Eskimo, Ray helped return the Eskimos to Grey Cup glory, threw in excess of 40,000 yards and conducted himself in a manner that merits a warm homecoming.
Throughout the years, Ray would visit the visiting locker room at Commonwealth, but Saturday will mark the first time he’ll suit up as Edmonton opponent.
“That’ll be going through my mind a little bit,’’ he said. “I’m so used to being inside the home locker room and being on one side of the field.
“It will be weird being inside visiting locker room and being on the opposite side will definitely be going through my mind.”
Nostalgia and emotions aside, foremost on Ray’s mind is leading the Argos offence.
In his final pre-season appearance, Ray looked out of sort in throwing two interceptions, one on a tipped ball at the line of scrimmage, the other on a poor read.
Now that Ray and the Argos are actually gameplanning for an opponent, the sight of an errant pass in practice has become rare.
“When I execute the way I should, it’s coming pretty natural,’’ he said. “The trouble begins when I hang on to receivers too long.”
But as long as Ray is being provided with protection, the Argos expect to be in every game.
“He’s looked good the last two practices,’’ rookie head coach Scott Milanovich said of his veteran signal caller. “He seems to be really locked in.”
Milanovich does not see any emotional letdown when Ray makes his return to Edmonton.
“He’s a pro,’’ Milanovich added. “It’s no different than getting booed from your home crowd.
“Those are things you expect to deal with when you play professional sports. I certainly think he’ll have some emotions, but it won’t affect the way he plays.”
Rambo insists battle not over
Ken-Yon Rambo remains in football limbo, unable to practise, unwavering in his desire to play for the Argos.
Calgary sent shock waves through the Stamps locker room on the weekend when the club released the veteran receiver, a player who was revered by his teammates, a player who is desperate to get back on he field.
When that comes, only time will tell.
But if that day arrives, Rambo has vowed it will be for the Argos, a team that simply must identify a receiving unit to complement quarterback Ricky Ray.
On Monday, the same day Rambo was scheduled to meet with Toronto’s medical staff, the seven-year vet showed up at a camp and liked what he saw.
Wearing a Blue Jays cap and the look of a wide-eyed rookie, Rambo began to envision the day when he’ll soon be hauling in passes thrown by Ray.
“The last couple of days have been crazy,’’ said Rambo. “I really don’t know what to say about it.
“Being here in Toronto is certainly a blessing and I’m looking forward to continue playing football.”