March 2, 2017

Ray excited for opportunity to start in 2017

Ricky Ray (15) during the game against the Calgary Stampeders at McMahon Stadium in Calgary, AB. Friday, October 21, 2016. (Photo: Johany Jutras)

TORONTO – On Tuesday, the Toronto Argonauts newly appointed head coach Marc Trestman made no hesitation in naming Ricky Ray his starting quarterback heading into the 2017 CFL season. Ray joined media on a conference call on Thursday afternoon to discuss his offseason, health, being named the club’s starter and the future of his career. Here’s what the 16-year veteran had to say:

On his reaction to being named the Argos starting QB this week:

I spoke to Marc before the announcement and we had a really good conversation. I’m just thankful for the opportunity he’s given me. I’m excited to work with him, he’s coached some great quarterbacks in a bunch of different leagues. [After] everything I’ve heard about him and playing against him in Montreal, I’m looking forward to being under his guidance. I’m definitely really excited and looking forward to this opportunity.

On what allows Marc Trestman to have success with QBs:

Obviously, I’m going to find that out first-hand here. Scott brought the same system over and a lot of the same philosophies that he got from Marc with coaching the quarterback. It’s a system that’s quarterback-friendly and they do a great job of coaching us up and putting us in good situations, good positions to go out there and be successful, playing to your strengths and all that stuff. I assume it’s going to be pretty similar in that sense. That’s why I’m looking forward to being able to work with him. Not just because of who he’s coached with before but because it’s going to be a similar transition. It’s not like I’m going to be learning a whole new playbook or trying to get adjusted to a whole new philosophy of doing things. They’re going to be pretty similar so I’m looking forward to learning from him and his take on the system, and how he coaches quarterbacks.

On how his mindset has changed knowing that he’ll be the starter going into camp:

It definitely changes. Obviously, you’re working hard and trying to get yourself ready to be the best football player you can be. Definitely going into training camp knowing where you stand allows you to focus in a bit tighter on what your job is. It’s nice to have the confidence of the coach off the bat and to go in there and have the first opportunity to prove myself to him and the team. It just allows you to focus in a bit tighter on where you stand with the football team and you don’t have to deal with uncertainty and not really knowing what your opportunity will be or would your role could be. I’m definitely thankful that I do have this situation going into training camp.

On how much the GM/coach hiring weighed into his decision to play in 2017:

There was a lot of uncertainty once the season ended and throughout the whole process. I was kind of waiting to see what was going to happen. I was going through all the scenarios and trying to be patient and wait to see what happened. My mindset never really changed. Going into this off-season, it was the first kind of time where I was really not sure what was going to happen next year with whether I was going to play or not. It was never that I didn’t want to not play, I just wanted to give myself a little time to make sure that I still had the drive and desire and all those things that I normally feel very off-season. I obviously I did have all those same feelings, I was never once thinking that I wasn’t going to be playing. For me, I knew I was going to be coming back, it was just a matter of what situation I was going to be coming back into, who was going to be the coach and all those sorts of things. It was definitely a long process, but I’m excited and happy and looking forward to what’s been happening here the last week or so.

On whether he’s thought about playing past 2017 yet:

I haven’t. You obviously have to play it one year at a time, there’s so much that can happen in professional sports. For me, that’s the approach I’ve always taken – one year at a time and just try to focus on being the best that I can this year and go from there.

On whether retirement was ever a serious thought this off-season

No, no it wasn’t. There were times at the end of last season where I was unsure because of how the season was going and dealing with a couple setbacks. I thought this would be the first off-season where I’d really have to see how I felt. I never really had those feelings of not wanting to do it anymore; every feeling I had was wanting to play. I still love playing the game and still have the drive and desire. For me, it was never in doubt. I’m excited to be able to step into this opportunity and to learn with the new coaching staff and to try to get better as player and help with my team.

On whether he’s talked to Anthony Calvillo about Marc Trestman:

I’ve thought about it, I have not yet. I’ve been thinking about some of the people that I could reach out to. Scott Milanovich, Marcus Brady and Anthony [Calvillo] would be the three guys that I would go to. I’ve also thought about just going in without really knowing either because what they’d say to me really wouldn’t matter. I’m going to try to go in and work hard and try to prove myself to the coaching staff and my teammates just like I do every other year. I’m not sure what I’m going to do yet.

On Trestman’s success with veteran QBs and whether this is the best scenario for him:

Yeah, he’s got a lot of experience with that with Rich Gannon and Anthony in Montreal. I’m definitely excited about learning from him, playing in his system and all those things that he’s going to bring. For me, going from not really knowing what’s going to happen or what my situation is going to be to now being focused in on it, it definitely made me excited. The last week has been exciting news for me and now it’s just up to me to go out there and prove myself, and try to be a great teammate, help this team win and do all the things that are going to be asked of me.

On the relationship between head coach and player, and whether he’ll help bring Trestman up to speed on CFL rule changes:

That’s always what you want to have is that kind of relationship with your head coach and him being an offensive guy. You want to have a great working relationship with them and be able to help each other out to be the best that you can. There have been some rule changes but I think the biggest challenge for him [will be] all the challenges that he can do. Learning all the pass interference [rules] and all those sorts of things that have changed and how he’ll handle that. I’m looking forward to working with him and I’m hoping we can have a great relationship and help each other be the best that we can.

On his physical status heading into 2017:

I’m feeling great. After last season, it took me a good month and a half to get recovered from the season with the couple of injuries that I had. I’m feeling great now. My workouts have been going really well, I’m really happy and pleased with where I’m at right now. Obviously, there’s still a few months to keep it going but workouts have been going really well, and I’m excited about how I’m feeling. The last few off-seasons have been a little different for me, coming off the shoulder [surgery] and not having it feel as great as it can be. It’s getting better every year that I’ve gone past the surgery point. It’s gotten better and better, and this year’s no different. I can definitely tell how much better it feels this year than it even did last year, it’s definitely noticeable. That’s exciting for me too.

On whether something near the end of 2016 gave him hope heading into the off-season:

Getting an opportunity to get back in there and play the last two games definitely helped out. It would have been tough to not play a game since Labour Day and go into the offseason on that note. It was good to finish off the season playing those last two games and being back in it. That definitely helped out a lot. I don’t know if it had a huge effect on what I was going to do, but it definitely didn’t hurt.

On what motivates him at this point in his career:

The enjoyment of going out there and playing. I know it sounds too simple but when you’ve done something for so long and you just enjoy going out there and having an opportunity to push yourself to get better, be the best you can, help your team and have a chance to win a Grey Cup, those are all things that motivate you as a player. I feel that at my age I still have a lot to learn about playing quarterback and what things I can do to be better. There are still some things that I can do to be a better quarterback. That’s all the stuff that excites me – getting better and having the chance to win another Grey Cup.

On the changes to the Argonauts receiving core:

We’re going to be completely different in that group and we’ll be a lot different as a team as well. I’ve been through it before, many times throughout my career. Getting used to new guys and going through that process, that’s not something I’m too worried about, it always works itself out. You get comfortable with the guys that you have. Some guys you get more comfortable with and develop a really good relationship with, and the other guys it takes a little longer or you never really reach that. That’s going to be another part of training camp where you’re going out there trying to get used to the guys and get a feel for each other and find out who you have the best connection with.

On his level of on-field play in 2016:

I always feel like I can play better regardless of how I’m doing, so there’s always that mindset that I’ve had. I felt last year there were some games where we played really well offensively and times we didn’t. That’s a tough question to answer because I don’t think I’m ever going to say that I felt like I was playing at a high level. I feel like I can go out there and do it and be great and do all those things but the way I work is that I always think I can play better so I can’t really answer that.

On his physical health down the stretch in 2016:

I’ve been frustrated with how my arm has felt the last couple years, recovering from the surgery. I’ve had some bad days at practice and some bad games. The thing is that it’s continuing to improve as time goes by and that’s what is exciting for me. It should be even better than it was last year. Playing those last two games at the end of the year – getting back in there and seeing how my body felt – definitely helped me out going into the off-season, being able to finish on a good note.

On whether Marc Trestman is the best possible coach and system for him:

I think it’s a great situation to go into. I think it probably is [the best possible scenario] if you want to characterize it like that. He’s a guy that’s got a lot of experience coaching quarterbacks and getting them to play at a high level. He’s done it in both leagues and he’s the one who brought this system to the CFL. Marc, Scott [Milanovich] and Marcus [Brady] tailored it to the CFL, so I don’t see why it’s not a good situation to be able to go into. For me, I’m just totally excited about that opportunity to play under him and learn from him. It’s definitely a great situation for me to go into.

On whether or not his shoulder is at 100%:

I’m going to find out in training camp when I get out there and it’s for real throwing. I feel really good right now, I’m not having any issues. Last year I felt a lot better compared to the year before, I felt really good. I feel even a bit better than I did last year. I’m hoping that it’s going to be as close to 100% from where I was going into this year. It’s been a process to get it back. Right now I’m really excited about how my workouts have been going and how my arm has felt but the true test will be when training camp comes.

On whether his arm will ever be the same as early in his career:

I don’t know if it will, that’s the stuff that you deal with as you get older. You deal with some injuries and you get used to your new body and how things work. I don’t know if it’s ever going to feel as good as it did when I first started playing. That’s up to the coaching staff and myself for me to go out there and play the best that I can. Hopefully, that’s good enough for the team, and if it’s not, then it’s not. That’s the exciting part about it for me, is how good it’s feeling this year and going into training camp this year. The last couple years how it’s improved and how it continues to improve, I definitely feel like I’m going to be better off than I was last year.