MISSISSAUGA – Six days removed from their disappointing 35-14 loss at the hands of the Calgary Stampeders in a rematch of the 100th Grey Cup championship game, Argonauts head coach Scott Milanovich met with the media on Thursday afternoon to provide an official update regarding the status of starting quarterback Ricky Ray, who suffered a shoulder injury after being taken down hard onto the turf by Stampeders defensive lineman Charleston Hughes at 8:51 of the first quarter.
“Ricky has a partial tear on a muscle in his shoulder. It’s called the teres major muscle, which I have been informed is not a part of the rotator cuff,” indicated Milanovich. “He’s going to be out approximately six weeks, could be a couple weeks less or a couple weeks more, depending on how he responds to his rehab.”
In seven starts this season, Ray boasts a record-setting completion mark of 78.3 per cent along with 1,824 passing yards and 15 touchdowns. Ray joins Saskatchewan’s Darian Durant as the only two starting pivots that have yet to throw an interception thus far in 2013.
According to Milanovich, the injury, which will not require surgery, is rare in terms of professional football and required extensive research on the part of the Argos’ coaching staff in order to determine how to handle Ray’s rehabilitation process.
“We had the results of his MRI on Sunday and from what I understand in football, it’s a fairly rare injury,” said Milanovich. “We were doing some research, talking to some people that had dealt with a similar injury, and we didn’t get a final timetable until yesterday.”
Ray, meanwhile, is no stranger to this kind of adversity. Last season, the 33-year-old Californian was sidelined for three games after he suffered a left knee injury against the Montreal Alouettes in week 13.
Upon his return to the Argonauts’ starting lineup, Ray completed 113 of 116 pass attempts (71 per cent) for 1557 yards passing, 13 touchdowns, and two interceptions en-route to capturing his third career Grey Cup title.
Earlier this season, Ray injured that very same knee in a game against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, forcing the Argonauts’ veteran pivot out of action for one week.
Although Ray’s shoulder injury is much more severe than that of his previous knee injuries, Argonauts head coach Scott Milanovich is optimistic that his veteran signal caller will be able to return to the Argonauts’ starting lineup prior to the conclusion of the regular season.
“Ricky is our guy. It wasn’t until Monday that I got a chance to talk to Ricky after the MRI,” stated Milanovich. “We joked around a little bit about how hot he was when he returned from injury a year ago so hopefully we’ll get a similar result.”
In the meantime, backup quarterback Zach Collaros will start in Ray’s absence.
“Zach (Collaros) will be starting against Montreal,” declared Milanovich following Thursday’s walk-through session.
The second-year pivot made his first career CFL start earlier this season as the Argonauts played host to the B.C. Lions in week five, a game in which Collaros went 21-for-25 with 253 yards passing and three touchdowns as he led the Boatmen to a convincing 38-12 win.
“I know I’m going to have to play for an extended period of time,” commented Collaros as he met with reporters on Thursday afternoon. “The B.C. game, I felt it was still up in the air. I wasn’t sure how long I’d have to play then but I think it’s comforting knowing that I’ll have to be ready for the next few weeks.”
Overall, Collaros has completed 51 of 72 pass attempts for 675 yards, four touchdowns and one interception. Collaros has caught the eye of many coaches and general managers from around the Canadian Football League as the 25-year-old Steubenville, Ohio native has showcased tremendous poise and composure when thrust into action thus far in 2013.
The 11-day layoff in between games could not have come at a more significant time for the Double Blue as Collaros prepares to take the reigns of an Argos offence that currently boasts the league’s No.1 aerial attack, averaging just over 320 yards passing per game.
“It’s definitely a different feeling going through the week and being the guy,” admitted Collaros. “As long as we’re prepared as a team and I’m prepared, I think we’ll all feel comfortable out there.”
Head coach Scott Milanovich has the utmost confidence in his young quarterback as the Argonauts’ second-year bench boss praised Collaros for his professionalism throughout this entire process and re-iterated he firmly believes that the former University of Cincinnati star gives the Double Blue the best possible chance to win week in and week out.
“Coming off the bench as a backup quarterback is one of the hardest things I think there is to do in sports because you don’t get any reps, you are cold and then you are asked to go in and win a game,” said Milanovich. “I told him the same thing I did against B.C., which was, it’s his game and there is no quick hook. I’m not waiting for him to make a mistake and put somebody else in. If Zach would not play well for an extended period of time, we always have to do what’s best for the team. It’s his game and I don’t anticipate that happening.”
Pound The Rock
Statistically, the Argonauts rushing attack currently ranks last in the Canadian Football League, averaging 82.5 yards per game on a total of just 132 rushing attempts thus far in 2013.
With running back Chad Kackert still sidelined due to a knee injury suffered in week four against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, rookie tailback Curtis Steele will make his fifth consecutive start on Tuesday night as head coach Scott Milanovich hopes to establish an effective rushing attack in an attempt to ease some pressure off of Zach Collaros, who will be making his second career CFL start.
“Whether it’s Ricky playing or anybody else playing, our run game needs to improve. We made a conscious effort this week of trying to figure out what we can do to improve that and there are games where even Ricky is not as hot, it hasn’t happened recently, but that’s where your run game needs to pick it up in order to take some of the pressure off (the quarterback),” stated Milanovich. “That was one of the things that, I thought, hurt us a week ago against Calgary. We didn’t run it very well or very often. We put a lot of pressure on Zach to drop back and make plays.”
The Argonauts’ reigning CFL Coach of the Year even hinted at mixing in some pre-determined quarterback runs, allowing Collaros to showcase his tremendous mobility outside of the pocket.
“A lot of the principles are still the same but we may move him around a bit more or ask him to do some quarterback runs, which makes it more difficult for a defence to defend the run,” said Milanovich. “His mobility is a lot different than Ricky so we’ll do our best to take advantage of his strengths.”