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It’s no coincidence that the Toronto Argonauts’ best one-two punch signed three days apart.
Before S.J. Green began to weigh his options as a potential free-agent — and start negotiating his contract; he’s been his own agent the last eight years — he looked to his quarterback to read the situation.
“I definitely was thinking about what Ricky was doing. It affects me in some light,” the Argos’ receiver said on Monday night, shortly after his two-year extension was announced at Commissioner Randy Ambrosie’s road trip visit with Argos fans.
“I wanted to make sure that before I committed to whatever I was going to commit to that I knew what Ricky was going to commit to. That didn’t factor into whether I came back or not, but it carried its weight.”
Like every Argos fan and CFL follower across the country, Green wondered about whether Ray had played his last game or not. Unlike most people, Green had the means to try to get an answer.
“I texted with him. I kept everything confidential. I didn’t speak to anybody about what he wanted to do,” Green said. “I just said, ‘Ricky, what are your plans? I don’t plan on sharing information with anyone it’s just, what you do reflects on me a little bit and I’d like to know what you’re thinking.’
“He was honest. He told me he wasn’t sure yet. I just respected his space, let him have his time. About two, three days before he signed, he texted me and said he was coming back. That’s how that process went. It wasn’t a bad thing or anything. It was just, ‘What are we doing?’ I just needed to know.”
In their first year as teammates, Ray and Green found instant chemistry. Ray put up his best numbers in nine years (5,546 passing yards with 28 touchdowns) and Green enjoyed the best season of his 11-year career. He caught 104 passes for 1,462 yards and 10 touchdowns. All of that came off of a career-threatening knee injury suffered in 2016. Of course, they topped it off with a dramatic Grey Cup win over the Calgary Stampeders.
With Ray on deck, Green quickly finalized his deal.
“Playing with Ricky last year was probably one of the most memorable seasons that I’ve had, if not the most memorable season of my career. I can’t see going forward without Ricky, having him throwing that rock one more time one more year, two more years,” he said.
Ray signed a one-year deal on Friday and said he’d considered retirement more than he ever had before.
“I knew really early on last year that I wanted to come back and play,” Ray said in his conference call on Friday.
“This year it took me a little more time to go through all the thoughts of where I was at and what I was thinking about for next year, so I was kind of back and forth a little bit. In the end I still have it, I still have that desire to come back and try to help this team out.”
Ray will never admit that he does more than simply help his team out, but in their one season together, Green was in awe of Ray’s poise and leadership.
“He’s just so cool, man. He’s never too high, he’s never too low,” Green said. It’s a small thing, but he laughed as he remembered it.
“I’ve never heard him say a curse word. I’ve only heard stories about him saying curse words. And only one story at that,” he said.
“We were in Hamilton, and he threw the touchdown to DeVier (Posey) on a post route. DeVier laid out (to make the catch),” Green said of the Sept. 30 matchup that the Argos won 43-35 in overtime. Ray wasn’t cursing anyone out. He was fired up. That’s also rare.
“You don’t get that out of Ricky,” Green said. “The fact that he can be the guy that he is, a hall of fame quarterback, to have all the accolades and numbers and stats that he’s been able to put up, the most winningest quarterback in CFL history…to be able to sit down with a guy like that and have a normal conversation and see how he approaches the game, how he approaches life.
“He doesn’t have a fancy car. There’s nothing…jazzy, nothing that sticks out about Ricky Ray.”
Through his last year in Edmonton in 2011, Ray drove a straightforward looking silver SUV, the type of vehicle that almost looked invisible among the kid-transporting wagons parked among the masses at Commonwealth Stadium. Green only smiled and nodded as he was told this. You’d never know that Ray was making…
“Probably half a million dollars a year,” he said. “He’s a special guy. To have a guy like that in our locker room, it reminds me of the presence that Anthony Calvillo had.
“I hate to compare them because they’re their own two people but when Calvillo was in our locker room, he was that guy that when he spoke everyone paused and listened, almost jaws to the floor. They just wanted to hear what this guy had to say because it was greatness in the flesh. Ricky has that presence in our room too. And just the fact that he doesn’t take advantage of it…it takes a special person to be the guy that he is and handle it how he does.”
Green can’t imagine what this year might be like for Ray, how crowds will react when the team goes on the road, maybe giving sendoffs to a legend. He knows Ray isn’t a farewell tour type of person. As the season progresses, it’ll be something that Ray will face more and more. Green can only see the same stone-faced QB that quietly commands the huddle, week-in and week-out. The guy that occasionally gets crushed by a d-lineman, gets pulled up by his teammates and simply looks at his armband for the next play.
“He’s so cool, calm and collected all the time. I love that about him,” he said.
“He’s just a great family man. He’s a great person, a great dad, a great player, a great husband. If I can be anything like Ricky Ray when I’m done, or even while I’m playing I’ll feel a little bit accomplished, you know?”
If Green can pull a fired up curse word out of Ray this year, it’ll be a bonus.