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Argos cautious with Ricky Ray as star quarterback recovers from surgery

05/27/2015 02:40 EDT | Updated 05/27/2016 05:59 EDT
TORONTO - The Toronto Argonauts opened rookie camp Wednesday with no definite timetable regarding the return of veteran quarterback Ricky Ray.

The three-time Grey Cup champion reported to the start of minicamp at York University almost six months after undergoing off-season surgery on his right throwing shoulder. But while the other four quarterbacks wore helmets and shoulder pads, Ray donned a baseball cap and watched as veterans Trevor Harris and Mitchell Gale took the bulk of opening snaps.

Ray, 35, threw a football before Wednesday's practice for the first time since his surgery. Ray said he began throwing a baseball and tennis ball a few weeks ago and graduated to a football after receiving medical clearance Tuesday.

"Throwing the football was similar to when I first started throwing a few weeks ago, it's sore, it's still a little weak," Ray said. "The good thing is when I started throwing a few weeks ago, the baseball and tennis ball, it improved every day.

"I'm hoping the next time I throw it will feel a little bit better and as we go just continue to improve and improve."

The six-foot-three, 210-pound Ray said players are always eager to return ahead of schedule. However, in this instance, Ray added patience is indeed a virtue.

"You want to be out there, you want to push through things, you want to be the guy who comes back early," he said. "Most of the time that's not the best thing to do.

"The good thing is the coaches, (GM Jim) Barker and all the docs have been pretty patient with me so far. They're not making me feel like I have to rush to do anything. They're giving me the time to heal up and we'll see."

The good news is Ray said he has between 90 and 95 per cent range of motion in the joint. He'll follow a rehab schedule of throwing and resting on alternate days while receiving treatment to strengthen his repaired rotator cuff.

Toronto head coach Scott Milanovich said it's too early to say whether Ray will be ready for the club's home opener June 27 in Fort McMurray, Alta., versus the Edmonton Eskimos.

"We're still several weeks away, we haven't even had our first veteran practice," Milanovich said. "Everything I've been told is his progress is going according to plan and we're hopeful he'll continue to improve rapidly."

With Ray sidelined indefinitely, fourth-year pro Trevor Harris becomes the club's starter. Both he and veteran Mitchell Gale handled the bulk of snaps Wednesday and Harris will open training camp Sunday as the No. 1 quarterback.

"I think he's pretty well acclimated with (Argos offence) but it's a different sense," Milanovich said. "Right now it's his offence to run and that's a different responsibility leadership-wise and just the way the players look at you in the locker-room and meeting rooms.

"It's a great opportunity for him to take the reins and take control from a leadership standpoint, for sure."

Harris, 28, finished last season as Toronto's starter as Ray ended the 2014 on the sidelines with a concussion. The six-foot-three, 235-pound Harris guided the Argos to a 23-5 win over Ottawa, completing 26-of-36 passes for 281 yards with two TDs and one interception while rushing three times for 14 yards.

"That's done and over with," Harris said of the Ottawa victory. "I'm going to approach this no different than I did in 2012 when I was a rookie . . . you want to prepare as if you're going to play every single snap of every single game of every single season.

"That's the way I've prepared this off-season, no different than any other time. If it's a little more real this time then it is what it is but nothing has been confirmed with Ricky but I will prepare as I always have. No matter what the situation is, no matter what the timing is you always have to be ready."

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