EDMONTON -- The storylines for this weekend’s games seem to be writing themselves, and the Argos-Eskimos matchup on Saturday at Commonwealth Stadium is no exception.
Ricky Ray’s first taste of regular season football in 2012 comes against the only CFL team he’s ever played for, in the only stadium he’s ever called home.
Ray was traded East by the Eskimos after wearing the Double E for nine seasons, and his return to Commonwealth has arrived rather quickly.
Eskimos General Manager Eric Tillman has taken plenty of flak for trading his franchise pivot, and there’s really only one person that can silence the GM’s critics: Steven Jyles.
» Jyles determined to step out of Ray's shadow
As he prepares to open the season against the man he was traded for, Steven Jyles is determined to prove that the Eskimos made the right decision in acquiring him.
Jyles truly is honoured to now be forever linked to a future hall of fame quarterback, but he’s about to set out to become more than just the guy that got traded for Ray. Still, he knows it’ll take more than one game, and he’s not about to become sidetracked by Ray’s return.
“A lot of people are hyping this story up because Ricky Ray was traded from here, and he’s a great guy here, he’s a future hall of famer in my eyes,” Jyles told Esks.com. “As an Eskimo and for the guys in this locker-room, this is another ball game for us.”
Esks Head Coach Kavis Reed also isn’t worried about his team getting caught up in the headlines ahead of Saturday’s opener.
“With the number of changes we’ve had, not too many guys have really spoken about it,” Reed said in an interview with Esks.com.
“We’re saying this is our first football game, I don’t think that it’s going to be a theme for us, it’s a football game that we want to come out and play very well in and we just so happen to be playing against Ricky Ray’s football team.”
On the other side, Argos Head Coach Scott Milanovich said he hasn’t even spoken to Ray about the fact that he’s playing against his old team, instead focusing on what needs to be done on the field.
“Ricky’s a grown man and he understands what’s happening, and he’s honest – I’ve read some of the things he’s said and there are going to be some emotions for him and I wouldn’t expect anything different,” Milanovich told Argonauts.ca.
“But he’s locked into what we’re doing offensively and to what he needs to do as a leader of this offence and that’s just to play within himself, go through his progressions, and trust the offence. I think he’s going to play well.”
Ray’s return to Edmonton certainly isn’t the only storyline heading into Saturday’s opener, but it’ll be the one dominating the headlines as an appearance by the 32-year-old at Commonwealth wearing Double Blue will be quite a new sight, not just for Esks fans but for all CFL fans.
Contrary to the headlines, Ray and Jyles aren’t the only ones playing in Saturday’s season premiere. The Eskimos have another major hole to fill on their offence after the departure of star running back Jerome Messam to the NFL.
Hugh Charles will be the one having to fill that void after being acquired later last season by the Esks, but Reed said he has full confidence in the 26-year-old back. The Esks head coach said that Charles and Messam are comparable in their explosive running styles and ability to catch the ball, and his biggest concern with Charles coming in was his ability to pass protect.
“The only question we had about Hugh was his protection game and he’s proven that he can protect the quarterback,” Reed said in an interview with the Edmonton Journal.