Eskimos release veteran Terry Ray

There were many bewildered faces in the Edmonton Eskimos' locker room on Friday.

The Eskimos cut all-star linebacker Terry Ray in a move which some of his teammates called "disrespectful."

Head coach Tom Higgins pulled Ray aside just before team meetings were supposed to start and informed the four-year Eskimo of his release.

Ray, a three-time CFL all-star, immediately cleaned out his locker and left.

Ray's former teammates struggled to express how they were feeling after finding out the news.

"I am hurt," said linebacker Singor Mobley. "This is as big of a shock to me as it is to you. I don't see how this can be a football decision."

Wide receiver Ed Hervey said he was still in shock.

"It hurt me," said Hervey, who lives with Ray during the season. "It hurt me a lot.

"He is one of the greatest human beings I have ever been around and one of the greatest players. We would have liked to see it done (Thursday) so he could have gone out with a little bit of class. But you can't question anything that is done around here these days. We just have to live with the decision and move on."

Higgins said the decision was made after the strong play of outside linebacker Glen Young during training camp.

Keeping Young, a Canadian who played mostly on special teams after joining the Eskimos from the Montreal Alouettes last season, gives Higgins the option of using an American at another position.

Higgins said he was still puzzled by Ray's decision to undergo laser-eye surgery in May, which prevented him from taking part in contact drills throughout training camp. Ray just received clearance to play on Thursday.

"We played two pre-season games, and Terry Ray was not in the line-up," Higgins said. "Only time will tell how this is going to work out."

In four seasons with the Eskimos, Ray recorded 328 defensive tackles, 53 special-teams tackles, 14 sacks, six interceptions, five fumble returns for 127 yards and one touchdown.

Ray was regarded as a leader in every facet of the game. He gave speeches in the locker room, mentored newcomers on the field and represented the team on the CFL Player's Association.

Mobley questioned the way Ray learned of his release.

"It was really disrespectful, I think," said Mobley, who talked with Higgins for about 20 minutes after practice about Ray.

Higgins said he couldn't get in touch with Ray in time to break the news in private.

"I know it probably offended some people," said Higgins. "But I don't know if there is ever a right way to do something. The wrong way to do something is to have his bags all packed, hand them to him and tell him to not even come into the locker-room."

It's expected that Ray will sign with another CFL team within the next week, possibly Montreal or Toronto.

with files from Canadian Press