It’s all about perspective. Of course the fans of any team will tell you they want them to do well. Sometimes though we are reminded that no matter how wrapped up we get in a team there are bigger things in life. Seeing Ricky Ray stretchered off during a 41-7 defeat to Calgary will have given fans of the Argos and fans across the CFL pause for thought. We are fans of a sport that can be visceral at times and sometimes there is a human cost to that.
The defending Grey Cup champion Toronto Argonauts have had a terrible start to their 2018 campaign. They are 0-2 and coming off the above mentioned 41-7 shellacking. That wasn’t really the focus after this game though. After starting their first home game of the 2018 season in an upbeat way, celebrating their 2017 triumph, things went downhill for the Argos.
Ray was injured on a play where he rolled out of the pocket & was hit by Ja’Gared Davis from behind & Cordarro Law from the front in a way that saw his head and neck caught chillingly between the two defenders. Trainers from both the Argos and the Stampeders attended to Ray on the field for almost 20 minutes before he was stretchered off. Let’s be clear, this wasn’t a cheap shot or a dirty hit of any kind. It wasn’t intentional. This game can be violent sometimes. It was just football.
Sine the incident the Argos have released a statement on Ray’s health on their argonauts.ca site https://www.argonauts.ca/2018/06/24/update-ricky-ray/ stating that he has ‘feeling in all extremities’ and that he ‘did undergo concussion protocol testing and reported no current symptoms.’ All of which is encouraging and fans across the league will be keeping their fingers crossed for the future Canadian Football Hall of Famer.
Fans of the Argos were delighted to see Ray get through the 2017 season largely unscathed. The 39-year-old who is now playing into his 17th season as a pro football player, (16 of them in the CFL), had previously battled a litany of injuries. He has previously had surgery to repair a tear to his right (throwing) shoulder and a small tear in his right rotator cuff, suffered a sprained MCL and missed time due to a partially deflated lung and only started 11 games between 2015 and 2016.
The veteran QB was a large part of Toronto’s success in 2017. Last year he delivered a stellar season that saw him complete 71% of his passes for 5,546 yards and 28 touchdowns. It was a new personal-best as an Argo for yardage and the second-highest of his career. He had thirteen games with 300+ yards too, a number only bettered once in CFL history by Doug Flutie in 1991 (14). He also finished the season with the third-most pass completions in a single season in league history (474).
Putting the stats aside though you cannot put a value on the leadership and experience Ray can bring. This was most in evidence in last year’s Eastern Final as he delivered a classic calm game winning drive. For now though the Argos must try to move on with the rest of their season. Their motto going into this campaign was ‘pull together’ and now it seems even more appropriate. It is up to the rest of the team to pull together to get through this.
On the field duties will now fall to James Franklin at QB. This is exactly the type of situation he was brought to Toronto for in an off-season trade. Argos fans will be hoping he can have as much success as stand-in Winnipeg QB Chris Streveler has managed in the absence of their starter Matt Nichols. If there is any silver lining for the Argos it is that the injury has come now. Toronto has two weeks off before hosting the Edmonton Eskimos, Franklin’s former team, on July 7. That at least gives Franklin and the O time to prepare.
As stated at the start though, it’s all about perspective. Whatever happens over the rest of Toronto’s season the most important thing is the health of their players. When it’s a player as high-profile as their star quarterback that just brings it all into much sharper focus. When they took the likeable QB off the field, the crowd cheered and cheered their support for Ricky Ray, and you could see some in the crowd crying. Whatever else happens it’s all about Ricky and the Argonauts family, and the wider CFL family will undoubtedly pull together around him.
Image originally from cfl.ca