While the cancelled Canadian Football League season has left players and coaches itching to get back onto the field, Ricky Ray doesn’t count himself among them.
The Edmonton Football Club’s all-time passing-yards leader is enjoying his newfound retirement and says he is in no rush to take up a career in coaching.
It’s not that he doubts he has the ability to draw from his experience following a 17-year professional career that is enough to put him in the Canadian Football Hall of Fame two times over.
In that span, his four Grey Cup wins are the most of any starting quarterback on the way to a career completion percentage of 68.16, which tops the list of all-time passers over the 40,000-yard mark in both the CFL and NFL.
His longtime backup in Edmonton, Jason Maas, joined the coaching ranks to become his quarterbacks coach with the Toronto Argonauts back when they won the 2012 Grey Cup. And after getting his first head-coaching gig with the same Edmonton club they played for, Maas brought him in for a visit to Commonwealth Stadium as a sort of informal job shadow while Ray was up from his family home in Redding, Calif., to visit friends in July 2019.
“That’s why I’m up here, just learning a little bit and maybe next year we’ll see,” Ray, who had retired two months prior, said when asked at the time if he could see coaching in his future. “I don’t know, I think it could be. I’m still trying to figure all that out and taking some time throughout this year. But it would definitely be great to stay in football somehow and coaching would be something that I’d be very interested in doing.”
While 2020 has thrown a wrench in everyone’s plans, so far, it appears Ray still isn’t in any rush to get on with a second phase of his mighty football career.
“I like just being able to do what I want,” Ray said Tuesday in an interview on The Rod Pedersen Show. “For so long playing sports, everything is scheduled for you: When your meetings are, practice, when you’ve got to work out, when your games are. For me, I’ve been enjoying getting up and doing the day the way I want to.
“Whether it’s hanging out with my family or going off and doing something I didn’t get a lot of chances to do when I was playing football, like fishing with my dad, or getting out and riding my bike or going and running on the trails. I get to enjoy that a lot more.”
Ray left after nine years in Edmonton as the club’s all-time passing leader with 40,531 yards, before turning around and rising to the top of the Toronto Argonauts’ all-time list with 20,205 passing yards over seven seasons.
And in a league where passing is king and a landscape driven by free agency, where quarterbacks are the cream of the crop, who wouldn’t want to play under a coach like Ray?
It’s a question more than one team has asked not only themselves, but him as well.
“I’ve definitely had some opportunities. I’ve had a few calls from different people that I’ve met throughout my career in the CFL, and asked if I was interested in either guest coaching or maybe taking on a role with the team. Definitely I still got a love for the game and I think I would really enjoy coaching, and I think at some point I might try and get back into it.
“I’m just not ready yet. It’s a lot of time, it’s a big-time commitment, you’re away from your family a lot, and you never know where you’re going to be,” Ray said. “You could get fired or not re-signed from year to year, so you’re moving around a lot taking different jobs. All that uncertainty has kept me out of it for the time being.”
Ray’s name came up earlier this year during voting for the CFL’s all-decade team, which also included 11 of his peers – a handful of whom also would have been in the running right beside him for the previous decade’s edition too, had there been one.
“I think it’s cool,” Ray said in a phone interview from California with Postmedia.
And while the voting process is wrapping up at CFL.ca , it began in the summer at a time when there wasn’t a heck of a lot else going on in the wide world of sports.
“People like to look back and see who the top performers were and it brings up a good debate,” he said. “Just looking at the quarterbacks, you could debate a lot. I mean, every position’s that way, on how you debate. But I think quarterbacks make it interesting because it’s not just based on stats.
“It’s on winning and losing, and championships and all sorts of things. So, it brings up a fun debate.”
And one that Ray can ponder while holding a chin in one hand that happens to have all four fingers covered in championship gold.
E-mail: [email protected]
On Twitter: @GerryModdejonge
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