TORONTO — Argonauts backup quarterback James Franklin was anxiously watching Ricky Ray as the veteran QB was strapped into a spinal board and carted off the field. He wasn’t just worried about Ray’s well being, but also wondered what to say to his teammates when he took over the play calling.
Ray was taken to hospital as a precaution after he was sandwiched between a pair of Calgary Stampeders defensive linemen in the Toronto Argonauts’ 41-7 loss on Saturday night in a disappointing rematch of last year’s Grey Cup.
"I was just watching, concerned for him," said Franklin. "It’s hard to go into the huddle after that, especially for myself because I like to smile, get the guys talking or excited, but it’s difficult to do that after a situation like that."
Ray had faked a handoff with 4:05 remaining in the third quarter when he was caught between Ja’Gared Davis and Cordarro Law. Play was stopped for more than 20 minutes as trainers and doctors attended to Ray, who had his neck immobilized before being put on a stretcher and sent to Toronto Western Hospital.
When Franklin trotted on to the field he was still at a loss for words. It was his Argos teammates who gave him the pep talk instead.
"The O-line, the receivers, me, the fullbacks, we’re all just like ‘hey, let’s go, let’s go, eh, it’s you now, let’s get it,"’ said James Wilder Jr., Toronto’s star running back. "We just threw him into the fire and were like ‘hey, it’s your offence now."’
The Argos trailed 34-1 when Ray was injured. He had completed 12-of-17 passes for 74 yards up to that point. Franklin went 8 for 13 and 65 passing yards and rushed three times for 14 yards and a touchdown in the fourth.
"I think what you take away is he went in there and moved the football team. He didn’t have a chance to warm up and there was a 20-minute break," said Argonauts head coach Marc Trestman. "He went in and we called a pass right away and he made a completion. It’s good to see him get a decent start and I thought he made some good decisions."
Trestman said that Ray would receive an MRI and other tests before doctors could give a diagnosis.
Toronto has two weeks off before hosting the Edmonton Eskimos, Franklin’s former team, on July 7. That either gives Ray time to heal up or Franklin time to prepare.
Franklin, who last started a game two years ago as a member of the Eskimos, won’t change anything about his routine.
"Same thing as every time," said Franklin. "Actually, coach (Jason) Maas, when I was in Edmonton, he said ‘James, you better not do anything differently than you have all year the whole or else you’re selling yourself short.’
"Going into this next week I’ll still do the same thing: Be prepared to play. Hopefully Ricky is better and he can come back this year."
Wilder, who rushed for 60 yards and caught four passes for 30 yards, has faith that regardless of who starts at QB for the Argonauts against Edmonton, the team will be ready.
"If it’s Franklin, we have to embrace him, if Bethel-Thompson comes in and competes, we’re going to embrace whoever it is," said Wilder.