Sports

Veteran Ricky Ray returns to Argos with Drew Willy nursing shoulder injury

Toronto Argonauts' Ricky Ray looks for an open receiver before throwing the ball out of bounds during the first half of a CFL football game against the B.C. Lions in Vancouver, B.C., on Thursday July 7, 2016. Ray returned to practice today and could give the struggling Argonauts the boost they need later this week when they visit first-place Calgary. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Toronto Argonauts' Ricky Ray looks for an open receiver before throwing the ball out of bounds during the first half of a CFL football game against the B.C. Lions in Vancouver, B.C., on Thursday July 7, 2016. Ray returned to practice today and could give the struggling Argonauts the boost they need later this week when they visit first-place Calgary. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

TORONTO — Finally a little good fortune for Scott Milanovich and the struggling Toronto Argonauts.

Veteran quarterback Ricky Ray practised with the starting offence Monday as Toronto began preparing to face the Calgary Stampeders on Friday night. Ray comes off the six-game injured list this week just in time, as Drew Willy is ailing with an injury to his throwing shoulder that flared up in Toronto's 29-11 loss to Saskatchewan on Saturday.

Milanovich said Willy had an injury to his throwing shoulder prior to Toronto's 48-20 home loss to Calgary on Oct. 10, but "it didn't affect his ability to play."

"Unknown to me he re-injured it a little bit . . . so he's going to be down this week.

"I think he'll be on the one-game (injured list)."

That would mean a return under centre for Ray. The 36-year-old American hasn't played since suffering a deflated lung and fractured rib in Toronto's 49-36 Labour Day loss to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

"I feel like physically I don't have anything hindering me," Ray said. "Within a couple of weeks (the lung) was pretty much back to full capacity whereas the rib just takes a little bit longer but it feels pretty good.

"I was able to get back to practice last week . . . and get the feel back. Being out there again this week and being able to throw with the guys I feel like, yeah, I can play."

Toronto (5-11) has lost five straight and nine of its last 10 games to barely remain in playoff contention. The Argos trail second-place Hamilton (6-9) in the East Division and after facing high-flying Calgary (14-1-1) will finish their regular season visiting Edmonton (8-7) on Nov. 5.

Ray opened the 2016 season as Toronto's starter after missing much of last year recovering from off-season shoulder surgery. He led Toronto to a 3-2 record before suffering a knee injury in a 30-17 win over Montreal on July 25.

Youngster Logan Kilgore guided Toronto to a 23-20 road win over Ottawa the following week but the club has won just once — 33-21 over Hamilton on Sept. 11 — since then.

Dan LeFevour led Toronto past Hamilton before giving way to Willy, who was acquired from Winnipeg on Sept. 17 for defensive back T.J. Heath, a 2017 first-round pick and 2018 third-round selection. Willy was 0-3 as the starter and replaced by LeFevour in the third quarter Saturday after completing 11-of-23 passes for 87 yards.

Toronto scored all of its points in the fourth with LeFevour, who finished 11-of-16 passing for 107 yards with a TD and interception.

"Drew was been put in a difficult situation," Milanovich said. "And probably (was) put in there too soon for him to really, truly, be comfortable with what we're doing and then ask him to succeed and that's on me.

"Ricky is phenomenally accurate and knows the offence so well there's a lot of little subtle-type reads he's just seen so many times that he'll get it there quick and accurate. I think just his comfort level and the fact that when a guy is open . . . he doesn't generally miss."

Toronto must finish ahead of Hamilton to make the East Division playoffs after losing the season series to the Ticats. And the West Division has already clinched the crossover, meaning the fourth-place team will assume the No. 3 post-season seed in the Eastern Conference.

That means to make the playoffs Toronto must finish ahead of Hamilton. The Ticats are in Ottawa on Friday night then will play their final two regular-season games at Tim Hortons Field versus Edmonton and Montreal, respectively.

Calgary not only sports the CFL's top record but is 8-0 at McMahon Stadium. The Stampeders are leading the league in scoring (34.2 points per game) but also boast its stingiest defence (21.2 points per game).

Ray cited execution as the biggest reason for Calgary's defensive success.

"It's not like they're doing anything crazy and confusing you," he said. "They just execute so well.

"Everybody is in the right spot, they don't make a lot of mistakes, they're able to play good coverage in the back end and get pressure and stop the run up front. Just as a total team, they do it all."