TORONTO – The Toronto Argonauts say starter Ricky Ray “will miss significant time this season,” as a result of the neck injury he suffered Saturday night.
The Argos said in a statement issued Monday night that Ray, the club’s all-time leading passer, was released from a Toronto hospital earlier in the day and is now recovering comfortably at home with his family. Ray was injured in the third quarter of Toronto’s 41-7 home loss to the Calgary Stampeders.
The Argos also said Ray will undergo more tests to further evaluate the injury and there’s no timeline for his return.
Ray left the field Saturday night on a stretcher with his head immobilized after being sandwiched between Calgary defensive linemen Ja’Gared Davis and Cordarro Law. Play was halted for over 20 minutes as medical personnel treated Ray.
Ray, 38, has been a model of resiliency during his Argos tenure, successfully overcoming knee injuries, a partially deflated lung and shoulder surgery to return to the lineup. But watching a respected future Hall of Fame player leaving the field strapped down on a stretcher was certainly concerning to fans as well as players and officials on both teams.
On Sunday, the Argos said Ray was resting comfortably in hospital and had feeling in his extremities while showing no concussion symptoms. Earlier on Monday, GM Jim Popp said it would be a few more days before club officials know the full extent of Ray’s condition.
“I can’t even speculate on that right now,” Popp said. “I surely hope and pray it’s not significant for his quality of life and his family’s and there’s a 100 per cent recovery.
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“The prelim report is good (but) that doesn’t mean he won’t be out a bit. They run very thorough tests, they’re going over stuff, they want multiple people to look at it so there’s a clear indication of what the next step is. It may take a few days for us to get all those answers.”
Popp said when Ray went down, the outcome of the football game before secondary.
“The game itself becomes insignificant and unimportant to people as the individual because it’s a quality of life and what they’re going to have to go through,” Popp said. “That’s the scary part and that’s in every sport . . . but it gets magnified when it involves one of the all-time greats of your business and league as Ricky is and puts things into perspective.”
If there’s a silver lining to the cloud currently hanging over the Argos (0-2), it’s they have the luxury of time. Toronto is on a bye week and doesn’t resume its season until July 7 at home to Edmonton.
That time off allows the Argos to make the move from York University to their new full-time digs at BMO Field. The club also has time to prepare backup James Franklin to face his former team.
Franklin was 8-of-13 passing for 65 yards versus Calgary and scored the Argos’ lone TD on a 10-yard run.
Despite Toronto’s terrible start, don’t expect Popp to make wholesale changes. The Argos began their season losing 27-19 in Regina to the Saskatchewan Roughriders before dropping a lopsided rematch of last year’s Grey Cup, which the Double Blue won 27-24 last November in Ottawa.
“If we made any change it would be very minimal, if any,” Popp said. “We’ve got 20 of 24 starters back, we’re way ahead of where we were a year ago in regards to guys knowing what they’re doing, understanding the system and knowing the culture.
“We won a Grey Cup with most of these guys, we’ve had another draft, we added some key free agents . . . We just haven’t performed as well as we wanted to.”
The Argos hired Popp and head coach Mark Trestman on Feb. 27, 2017, just over three months before the start of the regular season. Toronto headed into the second half of the ’17 campaign with a 4-6 record but won five of its last eight regular-season games to clinch first in the East, then downed Saskatchewan 25-21 in the conference final before capping its campaign with a stunning Grey Cup victory.
“It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish,” Popp said. “Now, every single game is important because you learn something and find things out and maybe some of these losses early on tell us something that maybe we didn’t quite think about.
“We shocked a lot of people doing what we did last year . . . but it didn’t mean we played that great early on so we’ll see if we can’t get us playing back at a much higher level of football these next couple of weeks than how we finished the game (Saturday night).
“Yeah, we’re 0-2, no one wants to start out that way. “We have a bye week maybe at the right time and just have to re-assess. We’ll look at everything very thoroughly, we’ve already watched the film, we’ll look at more film here in the off-week and get back to preparation and try to get back on the winning track.”