Ricky Ray knew right away the news about his injured right shoulder wouldn’t be good.
The Toronto Argonauts quarterback hurt the joint in last week’s 35-14 home loss to the Calgary Stampeders. He’ll be out approximately six weeks after partially tearing the teres major muscle when he was taken down hard to the turf by defensive lineman Charleston Hughes.
“As he hit me and I was falling down, I felt my arm above my head and kind of knew it wasn’t going to be good,” Ray told reporters Friday. “When I got slammed down, I knew right away something wasn’t right.
“It’s frustrating to be out this long but you’ve just got to try and stay in it mentally.”
The good news, though, is Ray, who suffered a separated shoulder in 2007 with the Edmonton Eskimos, won’t require surgery.
“Any time you don’t have to have surgery on something, it’s a nice thing to hear,” Ray said. “As bad as it was knowing I was going to be out an extended period of time, it’s comforting to know it’s going to heal on its own and nothing else is required to get it fixed.”
Hughes has been the recipient of threats from irate fans for his hit on Ray. Last Thursday, Argos head coach Scott Milanovich said there was nothing wrong about Hughes’s hit, a belief supported by Ray.
“That’s unfortunate, I felt like it was a clean hit and it’s physical,” Ray said. “He’s just trying to get in there and put a hit on the quarterback.
“I was just scrambling out and he got a good hit on me from the backside and I just felt awkwardly.”
With Ray on the sidelines, sophomore Zach Collaros becomes Toronto’s starter and will lead the Argos (5-3) against the Montreal Alouettes (3-5) at Rogers Centre on Tuesday.
Collaros led Toronto to a 38-12 home win over B.C. earlier this season, when Ray was out with a knee injury. Ray said he’ll be readily accessible for Collaros but won’t constantly be talking to the young quarterback.
“My philosophy is I’m not going to just be in his ear all the time,” Ray said. “I wouldn’t want somebody there after every ball I throw being like, ‘Oh, did you see that?’
“When I play, I like to just focus on what I’m doing and if I have a question I’ll ask it and try and get help. I’m just trying to be there so if he have a question for me I can answer it for him … he knows how to play the quarterback position and can play it pretty well. I’m just there as an extra set of eyes to help him out when he does come with a question.”
Losing Ray will be a big blow to Toronto’s offence. The 33-year-old has completed 148 of 189 passes (78.3 per cent) this season for 1,824 yards with 15 touchdowns and no interceptions.
Ray was especially sharp in his four last starts, completing 69 of 79 passes (87.3 per cent) for 907 yards and nine scores before his injury. Ray anchors the CFL’s top passing attack (320.6 yards per game) and the Argos are third in scoring, averaging 30.5 points.
Collaros certainly impressed against B.C. in his CFL starting debut. After a full week of working with the starting offence, Collaros completed 21 of 25 passes for 253 yards and three majors, while adding 28 yards rushing in the July 30 victory. Collaros was forced to come in cold off the bench against Calgary and wasn’t as sharp, finishing 16 of 26 for 221 yards with an interception.
Collaros definitely brings a different skill set to Toronto’s offence than Ray. The former Cincinnati Bearcats star is a mobile quarterback and isn’t afraid to use his arm and legs to make plays. Ray is a more traditional drop-back quarterback who has pinpoint accuracy.
Ray is confident Toronto’s offence won’t skip a beat with Collaros taking the snaps.
“He’s a good player,” Ray said. “You see the skills he has to make plays, extend plays out of the pocket. He’s a smart kid, too, he knows how to get through his progressions and be accurate with the football and make plays in the pocket. He also has that extra ability to make plays outside the pocket.”
Ray was very durable during his nine seasons in Edmonton, missing just six regular-season starts. Ray has been forced to deal with more injuries – and subsequently miss more playing time – since coming to Toronto prior to the 2012 campaign.
The good news for the Argos, though, is after missing three starts last year with a knee injury, Ray made a triumphant return and anchored Toronto’s late-season march to a Grey Cup title.
“As an athlete, you don’t want to get hurt … but what can you do about it?” Ray said. “It’s not like there’s a quick fix for preventing injuries.
“It’s a physical game and sometimes it just happens.”
If there’s a silver lining to this latest injury, it’s forced Ray to learn more about the muscles of the shoulder. Before now, he admits he’d never heard of the teres major.
“No, I didn’t,” he said with a chuckle. “They were talking about the rotator cuff and I thought that was one muscle but I guess it’s like four different muscles “Anatomy is not my strong suit.”