Argos' Ray blocks out Tillman chatter
By Frank Zicarelli, QMI Agency
|Argos quarterback Ricky Ray had very little to say on Sunday about the Edmonton Eskimos' firing of Eric Tillman. Ray came to Toronto in an off-season trade engineered by Tillman. (REUTERS)
TORONTO - Naturally and logically, Ricky Ray reacted when Saturday’s news began to make the rounds within the CFL that Edmonton general manager Eric Tillman was abruptly shown the door, relieved of his duties amid many conflicting and curious events.
Ray is a lot of things, but he’s never come across as vindictive, selfish or agenda-driven.
In Ray’s world, no opponent is any bigger than the next, no foe provides any added incentive than the one up next on the schedule, no more important stage than playoff football.
Naturally and logically, when the Edmonton media descends on Toronto later this week, Ray’s days in Edmonton and his relationship with Tillman will be once again broached, but these alleged sub-plots have no bearing on Sunday’s East semifinal.
Tillman’s sudden dismissal isn’t going to make J.C. Sherritt tackle harder or somehow compel Joe Burnett to cover better.
The trade that sent Ray to Toronto was all about the future and positioning the Eskimos with some much-coveted cap space, despite all the anti-Tillman sentiment that has essentially been able to run amok among the media.
Tillman will resurface because he’s too good a talent evaluator.
Everyone in the CFL knows what Tillman brings to the table and more importantly what he doesn’t bring.
Everyone knows Sunday’s semi will be decided by Ray and how Edmonton’s defence is able to limit Ray and an Argos offence that is beginning to finally hit its stride.
The Eskimos entered this Ray-less season pretty much content to allow whatever quarterback to manage a game, rely on a very good defence, when healthy, and make enough plays on special teams to win field position.
It wasn’t Tillman’s fault that injuries began to ravage the roster and nor was it his fault that being able to execute a late-game field goal with a game to be won would amount to brain surgery.
There’s a fine line that separates winners from losers, a line so thin in three-down football that virtually any team can beat anyone.
The Argos and Eskimos are no exception, two teams that enter the post-season under vastly different circumstances and expectations.
If Ray plays to the level that saw him toss eight touchdown passes in two games, even the very best Edmonton has to offer won’t be enough in a quarterback league where no quarterback is playing at a higher level more than Ray.
“Of course I had a reaction,’’ said Ray on Sunday, a day the Argos ventured to Oakville to convene for a glorified walkthrough session. “But it’s nothing I want to talk about. That’s their situation
“I’m here in Toronto, this is the team I’m playing for, and I don’t care to comment or worry what’s happening over there.”
Whether it was Edmonton, Saskatchewan or Hamilton, Toronto’s three potential dance partners, it was of little concern to Ray, especially given the time of the year and the punishing consequences of losing a playoff game.
“Obviously I want to win,’’ he added. “It’s the playoffs and I’ll face whomever comes here. You’ll be playing some good teams to get to the Grey Cup.
“I don’t play better by playing with a chip on my shoulder. For me, I’m preparing like it’s any other game.”
It’s the only way Ray must approach Sunday, eliminating distractions and the inevitable noise inherent when a marquee quarterback plays the only team he’s ever known.
Logically, Ray will be doing himself and his team a disservice if he happens to lower himself, which is not his nature.
Logically, the Argos will be one win away from playing in their own backyard in the 100th Grey Cup if Ray continues to play like he has since returning from a knee injury.
Naturally, the Edmonton ties and the Tillman departure will be revisited.