Ray asked to get away

GERRY PRINCE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 12:45 PM ET

The transaction wire didn't tell the entire story about Ricky Ray's parting of ways with the New York Jets on Thursday.

In fact, it didn't even come close.

Truth is, the 25-year-old former Edmonton Eskimos' quarterback asked to be released.

It was a move the Jets were reluctant to make, but one Ray and his agent, Ken Staninger, concluded was in the young pivot's best interests. New York's acquisition of veteran NFLer Jay Fiedler in March ultimately triggered the request.

"When they signed Fiedler was the telling toll," Staninger said. "We asked them for a release and came to a confidential settlement.

"They reluctantly let him go so he could pursue other avenues. They worked with him, they were great with him. But Jay Fiedler is a good football player now and he brings a lot of experience to the Jet organization."

Fiedler's arrival in the Big Apple was a case of deja vu for Ray.

The cool-as-a-cucumber quarterback who led Edmonton to a Grey Cup title in 2003 appeared a lock for New York's No. 3 job until former Dallas quarterback Quincy Carter turned up in the Jets' camp last summer.

"Both Ricky and I understand why they took (Fiedler)," related Staninger. "These teams are going to take care of themselves first. That's what they do. We don't have any ill feelings."

Unless plucked off the waiver wire prior to the expiration of the 72-hour period, Ray - who is still not talking - will become a free agent Tuesday afternoon. Staninger pegs his client's chances of being claimed by one of the NFL's 31 remaining clubs before that, at 50-50.

START MAKING CALLS

If no team claims the six-foot-three, 210-pounder, Staninger will start making calls in an effort to find work for Ray south of the border.

"There's an awful lot of NFL teams that didn't fill their needs in the draft," Staninger said. "That's what we're looking at at this moment. We want to see what else is out there in the NFL."

While it's a good bet CFL general managers are excited about the possibility of landing Ray, a return to three-down football isn't a priority at this point.

As of early yesterday Staninger had been inundated with calls from media types in several CFL cities. Surprisingly, he hadn't heard from any of the nine CFL teams by that point.

"We're going to take one thing at a time here and wait and see," the agent said. "We'll talk to the NFL teams that have expressed an interest.

"It's just too premature to start speculating, 'What if this? What if that?' Let's see what happens first."

FINANCIALLY REWARDING

At least Ray's time with the Jets was amply rewarding from a financial perspective. He collected a roughly $185,000 signing bonus from the Jets in February of 2004, earned NFL minimum for parts of last season and cashed a roster bonus cheque this March. When you add it all up Ray's stint in New York netted him in the neighbourhood of $450,000 US.

"He made a lot of money," Staninger conceded.

"It was a good experience, no question about it, and he got good coaching," Staninger said.

"Ricky is a much better football player now than he was two years ago.

"But it's time for him to get onto a place where, hopefully, we can get him on the field."

LATE HITS: The Esks announced the signing of import offensive lineman Michael Thompson yesterday. The 28-year-old was drafted by the Atlanta Falcons in the fourth round of the 2000 NFL Draft. A product of Tennessee State, the six-foot-five, 300-pound Thompson appeared in 12 games for the Falcons over three seasons.


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