Could Ricky Ray end his ca­reer where he started it?

Edmonton Journal - - FRONT PAGE - GERRY MOD­DE­JONGE gmod­de­jonge@post­media.com Twit­ter: @Ger­ryMod­de­jonge

Ricky Ray re­turns to Com­mon­wealth Sta­dium Satur­day for the sixth time since the big trade back in De­cem­ber of 2011. But will there be a fi­nal re­turn to Ed­mon­ton — and a much big­ger one — this off­sea­son?

Ray, who will turn 38 in two weeks, has not been of­fered a con­tract ex­ten­sion by the Toronto Arg­onauts, ac­cord­ing to a mem­ber of the Eski­mos with knowl­edge of Ray’s sta­tus.

“They haven’t said any­thing to him about a new con­tract,” the source said. “At Ricky’s age, you kind of know what si­lence means. As play­ers, we know. When they don’t talk to you about next year, it’s time to start pre­par­ing the wife that an­other move may be com­ing. Ricky wants to keep play­ing, but maybe it’s not go­ing to be over there in Toronto with them.”

If the ru­mours are true, the Ar­gos have other quar­ter­back­ing plans be­yond 2017, as there have al­ready been re­ports about at­tempted trades for Hamil­ton Tiger-Cats’ Zach Col­laros, which, of course, leads to se­ri­ous ques­tions about what’s next for the re­spected veteran from Happy Camp, Calif.

Would an­other team view Ray as their starter for 2018 and be­yond?

That prob­a­bly de­pends on how they sort out the con­flict­ing fac­tors. On the pos­i­tive side, Ray has sur­passed the 4,000-yard pass­ing mark this year and the Ar­gos are in first place in the East Di­vi­sion. On the neg­a­tive side, in ad­di­tion to his ad­vanc­ing age, Ray’s six-year record as the Ar­gos reg­u­lar sea­son starter is 32 wins, 33 losses and a very con­cern­ing 40 games missed in­jured.

When a veteran has missed 38 per cent of his starts over a six-year pe­riod due to in­jury, it be­comes very dif­fi­cult for a foot­ball club to jus­tify pay­ing him a high-dol­lar starter’s con­tract.

To his coach­ing credit, first year Toronto leader Marc Trest­man ap­pears to have ad­justed his pro­tec­tion schemes to keep the veteran quar­ter­back health­ier than he’s been in years. But, the si­lence from gen­eral man­ager Jim Popp re­gard­ing a con­tract ex­ten­sion may in­di­cate this could be Ray’s fi­nal sea­son play­ing in Canada’s largest city.

Other clubs are likely to look for younger quar­ter­backs in free agency or in trades, with Col­laros and Eski­mos backup James Franklin be­ing among the most cov­eted.

With Franklin’s de­par­ture from Ed­mon­ton very likely, one has to won­der if Eski­mos head coach Ja­son Maas will try to lure Ray, his long­time friend and team­mate, back into the Green and Gold fold as a good in­sur­ance pol­icy for of­ten hit Mike Reilly. Af­ter all, who could ask for a bet­ter tal­ent in the bullpen than Ricky Ray?

With no Toronto ex­ten­sion be­ing dis­cussed, and with his 38th birth­day right around the cor­ner, the re­turn of Ray to Al­berta’s cap­i­tal may only be a few months away. If it un­folds that way, it would cer­tainly be one of the most po­etic end­ings in CFL his­tory, with Ray end­ing his Hall of Fame ca­reer in Ed­mon­ton, where it all started way back in 2002.

FRI­DAY NIGHT LIGHTS

Ed­mon­ton high school foot­ball is get­ting its shot at the Fri­day night lights this year.

For the first time ever, the Metro Ed­mon­ton Ath­letic As­so­ci­a­tion’s cham­pi­onship foot­ball games will be played on the big league turf at Com­mon­wealth Sta­dium.

At an an­nounce­ment Thurs­day in the Eski­mos alumni room, Foot­ball Al­berta as­so­ciate ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor Tim Enger said the Div. 2 Miles Con­fer­ence fi­nal will be played at 5 p.m. on Fri­day, Nov. 3, fol­lowed by the Div. 1 Carr Con­fer­ence fi­nal at 7:30 p.m., while the Div. 3 Gil­fil­lan Con­fer­ence fi­nal is sched­uled for Wed­nes­day, Nov. 8, at 5 p.m.

Tick­ets are $5, while chil­dren 12 and un­der get in free.

“We hope this stays on an an­nual ba­sis,” Enger said, adding the idea has been in the works for sev­eral years. “The strug­gle for most teams when they get in here is to get their eyes off every­thing when it fires up.

“I even played high school foot­ball back in the day and we got to play the cham­pi­onship at Clarke Sta­dium. It may not seem like much now, but back then we were in awe.”

In and out: The Eski­mos signed Cana­dian line­backer Bryn Roy to the prac­tice ros­ter. The 29-yearold na­tive of Dale­mead, Alta., was drafted 34th over­all by the Montreal Alou­ettes in 2012 and spent last sea­son with the Saskatchewan Roughrid­ers ... DB Bran­dyn Thomp­son and LB Korey Jones prac­tised Thurs­day and are avail­able to come off the sixgame in­jured list in time for Satur­day’s game ... WR Vi­dal Hazel­ton (ham­string) is back prac­tis­ing and is sched­uled to come off the sixgame the fol­low­ing week on the road against the B.C. Lions.

NATHAN DENETTE/THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Toronto Arg­onauts quar­ter­back Ricky Ray makes his re­turn to Com­mon­wealth Sta­dium Satur­day when the Ar­gos face the Eski­mos. With his con­tract ex­pir­ing at the end of the sea­son, the 37-year-old Ray’s fu­ture with the team re­mains up in the air.

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