The most significant player on the Toronto Argonauts roster will be out of action for the next six weeks.
Grey Cup-winning quarterback Ricky Ray has a partially torn muscle in the back of his throwing shoulder, the CFL team announced Thursday, and Zach Collaros will take over under centre.
Ray's exceptional start to the 2013 season has helped place Toronto atop the East Division standings at 5-3, but the star pivot will now sit out with a partial tear to the teres major muscle in his right shoulder. The team says Ray's rotator cuff appears to be fine, which would have been a more serious issue for a quarterback. He won't need surgery, but time to rest and rehab the shoulder is key.
The 33-year-old veteran quarterback was injured in the first quarter of Toronto's 35-14 loss to the Calgary Stampeders last Friday, after he was flushed out of the pocket and then driven to the turf by defensive lineman Charleston Hughes.
After leading the Argos to the 2012 Grey Cup title, Ray remains the most vital piece of the Double Blue offence. In 2013, Ray has completed 148 of 189 passes for 1,824 yards and 15 touchdowns, and hasn't tossed a single interception. His completion percentage of 78.3 and quarterback rating of 134 are far and away the best in the league.
As Ray stood back and watched Thursday's practice, Collaros took the reps as the team returned from its five-day layoff and began preparation to play host to the Montreal Alouettes on Tuesday.
"I told Zach it's his game, there is no quick hook, I'm not waiting for him to make a mistake to put someone else in," Argos head coach Scott Milanovich said.
"It changes significantly what we do [on offence]. A lot of the principles are the same, but we may move him around a little bit more, we may ask him to do some quarterback runs, which makes it more difficult for a defence to defend the run. His mobility is a lot different than Ricky's, so we'll take advantage of his strengths."
The 25-year-old, second-year player has had some time in the spotlight already this season. His marquee game was a Week 5 start in place of Ray, who sat out with a knee injury. The six-foot, 216-pound former University of Cincinnati Bearcats quarterback led the team to a 38-12 victory over the B.C. Lions, completing 21 of 25 passes for 235 yards and three touchdowns.
However, Collaros wasn't as effective in relief of Ray last week. Coming in cold off the sidelines, he struggled to generate much offence.
"Leaving the game the other night, I felt pretty bad, but watching the film, I felt we did some good things," Collaros said after practice Thursday. "Pressure is what you make it, and as long as I'm prepared and we're prepared as a team, I'll feel comfortable out there."