Monday, November 16, 2015
RAY, FOLEY AMONG ARGOS' FREE AGENTS
The Toronto Argonauts' veteran quarterback met Monday for the last time with head coach Scott Milanovich following the club's heartbreaking 25-22 East Division semifinal loss to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Sunday. Ray, 36, is scheduled to become a free agent in February.
"That (uncertainty) is part of a new thought for me,'' he said. "I didn't spend a lot of time thinking about it but it was definitely something that went through my mind a little bit.
"It was just a weird year as far as rehabbing and coming off an injury. There's a lot of exciting things happening here with the new ownership and stadium so this is a place you'd want to play at and hopefully I'm here.''
This wasn't a typical year for Ray. The 13-year veteran spent the first half of the season recovering from off-season shoulder surgery before returning as a backup to Trevor Harris, another pending free agent.
Ray started Toronto's final three games - including Sunday's semifinal loss - but had never fully recovered from his injury. His off-season priority will be continuing to regain his arm strength.
"I'd like to play a few more years but at this point it's kind of one year at a time,'' Ray said. "Mentally and the drive, I feel like I still have a lot of that left.
"Obviously it's going to be a physical thing now.''
It was also a bizarre year for Toronto as the Pan Am Games and scheduling issues at Rogers Centre forced the club to relocate four of its nine home games to Fort McMurray, Alta., Ottawa and Hamilton (two). Still, the Argos went 7-6 on the road and 10-8 overall to finish third in the East Division.
"Honestly, it wasn't as bad, probably, as you guys think it was from my perspective,'' said head coach Scott Milanovich. "The players did rally after the first couple of weeks and I didn't have to do a lot of rationalizing our scenario.
"Last year when we didn't have a (practice) facility, that one was much more difficult and the players were much more upset with that situation than they were this one.''
But defensive end Ricky Foley, who's also eligible for free agency, felt Toronto's nomadic existence was costly.
"Man, I know the coaches and Jim (GM Jim Barker) did a good job of not making any excuses and that was our motto this year,'' he said. "But I can't help but think if we would've had a regular schedule and nine home games that we would've had home-field advantage in the playoffs.
"If we had home field (Sunday at Rogers Centre) and the wind wasn't a factor are we still playing this week? I just think with a regular schedule things are different for us.''
Next year, Toronto will play at a refurbished BMO Field under new ownership. But Foley isn't thinking that far ahead.
"I want to hold back my excitement until I get my name on a contract,'' said the native of Courtice, Ont. "I want to come back, it's home.
"But not just that, I really feel we have a chance to win here in the East and feel like we should've this year. At this point in my career it's tough because you never know how many more shots you'll get ... especially with the East being this wide open.''
Ray is hopeful he and Harris - who are roommates on the road - both return in 2016. So is Milanovich, given the rash of injuries this year to CFL starters.
"You need more than one and sometimes, apparently, you need three or four,'' he said. "It would be great for us to have them both back ... but it's going to be up to them.''
Milanovich said Toronto's off-season priority will be trying to re-sign its top free agents, which also includes slotback Chad Owens, Canadian linebacker Cory Greenwood and kicker/punter Swayze Waters. Owens moved his family from Hawaii to Mississauga, Ont., full-time in January and wants to continue calling southern Ontario home.
"I want to be part of this new beginning,'' he said. "It's going to be an interesting off-season but preparation is what I do and I'm going to prepare to be in the best shape of my life.
"Yes, (uncertainty can hamper that) but it should also fuel you. I'm hopeful things will work out the way they should.''