The Toronto Argonauts have their offensive leader back.
Argos head coach Scott Milanovich said Saturday veteran Ricky Ray will be the club's starter when it faces the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in Guelph, Ont., on Monday afternoon. Ray has been out since suffering a shoulder injury Aug. 23 in a 35-14 home loss to the Calgary Stampeders.
"I'm feeling pretty good physically," Ray said following practice. "It's just trying to get back into the groove, into the rhythm you normally have.
'I'm feeling pretty good physically. It's just trying to get back into the groove, into the rhythm you normally have.' - Argos QB Ricky Ray
"I'm getting used to the guys running out there, timing, those sorts of things. That was the biggest thing for me this week, just try to get back into that rhythm."
Toronto didn't skip much of a beat during Ray's absence, posting a 4-2 record under sophomore Zach Collaros. But Ray's return comes as an important time with the Argos (9-5) currently atop East Division standings, four points ahead of the second-place Ticats (7-7), who beat Toronto 33-19 at Rogers Centre on Oct. 4.
"It's my first game back in a while, we're fighting for first place so it is a big game," Ray said. "But it's no different than any other big game as far as getting prepared and going out there and playing hard.
"For me, it's just getting that timing back, seeing things a little bit quicker and being a little bit more accurate and just doing the things that you'd normally expect to do at this point in the season."
When Ray was injured, he was the CFL's hottest passer, having completed 148-of-189 passes (78.3 per cent) with 15 touchdowns and no interceptions. If Ray can maintain that completion percentage, he'd break Dave Dickenson's single-season mark of 73.98 per cent set in '05.
Time to reconnect
The biggest challenge facing Ray now is reconnecting with his receivers and regaining a firm grasp of Toronto's offence.
Ray dressed as Toronto's No. 3 quarterback in the loss to Hamilton but didn't see any action as Collaros went the distance, completing 21-of-32 passes for 277 yards with an interception. Former Argo linebacker Brandon Isaac played a big role in the Ticats' win, registering five tackles and two sacks in his game against Toronto since being released by the club earlier this season.
Last season, Ray missed three starts late in the year due to a knee injury. But when Ray returned, he was outstanding and a key reason why the Argos were able to mount a late march that culminated in a 35-22 win over Calgary in the 100th Grey Cup game at Rogers Centre.
"It's similar in a sense that it's an important game coming back," Ray said. "Last year we were trying to make the playoffs and get a home playoff game.
"This year we obviously have a chance to win first place in the East so playoff implications are there. I just look at it as a chance to come back on a team that's headed to the playoffs. I'm just trying to get back out there and play the best I can to help this team win."
Toronto has been the CFL's best road team this season, having won six-of-seven games away from Rogers Centre. And Ray said the Argos relish being able to take the home crowd out of contests.
"That's your whole goal on the road," he said, "to take their crowd out of it by playing some good football and getting an early lead to where you can control the game and keep the crowd out of it."