The Toronto Argonauts' reward to Ricky Ray for being named the CFL's offensive player of the week is time off.
Ray received the CFL's weekly honour Tuesday after throwing four TD passes in a 31-26 road win over Saskatchewan on Saturday. Toronto (8-9) locked up second spot in the East Division with the victory as well as home-field advantage for the conference semifinal Nov. 11.
With a playoff spot sewn up, Ray will watch the Argos' regular-season final Thursday night against the arch-rival Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Backup Jarious Jackson will start against Hamilton with youngsters Trevor Harris and Zach Collaros also scheduled to play.
"It's a short week and he [Ray] isn't 100 per cent healthy," Argos head coach Scott Milanovich said regarding why Ray won't play. "I believe it's my job to get him into the playoff game as healthy as he can possibly be.
"I think that's in the best interest of our football team."
Milanovich's decision is certainly good news for desperate Hamilton (6-11). The Ticats must beat Toronto and hope the Calgary Stampeders defeat the Edmonton Eskimos on Friday night to make the playoffs.
If Hamilton loses, Edmonton will qualify for the playoffs, either crossing over into the East Division or finishing third in the West. The Eskimos (7-11) need a win over Calgary and a B.C. victory over Saskatchewan on Saturday night to take the No. 3 Western playoff seed.
The Riders can clinch third with either an Eskimos loss or by downing the defending Grey Cup-champion Lions, who have already cemented first in the West. If Saskatchewan and Edmonton finish tied, the Esks will get the higher position based on having won the season series.
Receiver Dontrelle Inman — who has missed four games with a hamstring injury — returns for Toronto but offensive lineman Marc Parenteau (upper body) is doubtful. If Parenteau can't play, rookie Joel Reinders would make his CFL debut.
Inman, who has 43 catches for 675 yards and four TDs, can't wait for Thursday's game.
"I hate watching from the sidelines," Inman said. "It's better being in there than looking from the outside in.
"I still have that edge, I still have that knack to where I want to be the best at everything I do."
Jackson will make his fourth start of the season Thursday after guiding the Argos to a 1-2 record when Ray was injured.
Ray has been stellar since his return two weeks ago, throwing eight touchdown passes against just one interception in leading Toronto to consecutive wins.
Ray, 33, must wear a brace on his left knee for the remainder of the season but says he feels fine and could play if Toronto needed him to. But with a playoff spot secured, Ray will serve as another set of eyes for Jackson, Harris and Collaros.
"It's all on what coach wants to do and he's decided to rest me and let some other guys play," Ray said. "I'll be watching from the sidelines trying to see coverages and what they're trying to do to us defensively and try to help the young guys out.
"They're our biggest rival. It's nice to knock a team out of the playoffs but your biggest rival is even better. We have a lot to play for still. They have a lot to play for, they're going to come out ready to go and we're going to go out there and try to get the win."
"I expect our team to compete to win," he said. "Any time you strap it up you play to win ... just because our starting quarterback isn't playing that could happen in the first round of the playoffs, it could happen at any point.
"We know the situation, we know we could turn around in a week and be playing them again. We need to put our best foot forward."
Milanovich isn't concerned the time off will affect the rhythm Ray has developed since returning from his injury.
Collaros adjusting to Canadian game
"No," he said emphatically. "He had one practice over the course of four weeks and came out and played his best football.
"Had I known that, I would've held him [out] until the playoffs. It will be a long week next week and there will be additional time for him to get back into rhythm."
The playing time will be the first of the season for Harris and Collaros, both CFL rookies. The 24-year-old Collaros, who played college football at the University of Cincinnati, is looking forward to making his debut.
"It's an important opportunity for both Trevor and I, especially to showcase what we can do a little bit," he said. "It's big for our evaluation point from [Argos GM Jim] Barker and coach Milanovich and I'm just really happy to play.
"I just want to do my job, move through my progressions and get the win, most importantly, for the team."
Like many American college players, Collaros has had to adjust to the nuances of the Canadian game, but without the benefit of actual game experience. In that situation, Collaros said, mental preparation takes on paramount importance.
"It has been different just doing mental reps every day," he said. "That's why you have to stay sharp and come to work every day with a mental focus to soak in as much as you can from the guys that have been there and experienced it before.
"But football is football ... and what it comes down to is having to execute. If you love to play and love to compete you're going to prepare your butt off throughout the week and go out there and give it everything you got and I'm excited for that."