Shane Ray is grateful to be enjoying soccer once more, even when it is with a brand new workforce and in a brand new league he is aware of treasured little about.
The six-foot-three, 245-pound defensive finish is battling for a roster spot with the CFL’s Toronto Argonauts. Simply six years in the past, Ray was taken within the first spherical of the NFL draft by the Denver Broncos and earned a Tremendous Bowl ring with the membership as a rookie.
However a severe wrist damage minimize Ray’s keep in Denver brief. He final performed soccer in 2019 on the Baltimore Ravens coaching camp earlier than signing with Toronto in February.
“To have the ability to play soccer and have that chance is one thing I did not have, and I am glad it got here. I’ll not know a lot concerning the Argos however I am one now and I am loving that I am right here. I am excited concerning the season.”
Ray, 28, was taken No. 23 general by Denver within the 2015 NFL draft. He suited up for 14 video games as a rookie, registering 20 tackles and 4 sacks because the Broncos went on to beat Carolina 24-10 within the Tremendous Bowl.
Ray was even higher the next season with 48 tackles, eight sacks and two fumble recoveries (returning one for a landing). However he began the 2017 season on injured reserve after requiring surgical procedure to restore a torn ligament in his wrist.
Denver activated Ray that October, however he went again on IR after requiring one other operation. The Broncos did not choose up the fifth-year possibility on Ray’s deal earlier than the 2018 season and the previous Missouri star had yet one more surgical procedure on the wrist.
He signed with Baltimore however was launched earlier than the beginning of the 2019 season.
‘For an outdoor linebacker/defensive finish, your fingers are every little thing’
“For an outdoor linebacker/defensive finish, your fingers are every little thing,” Ray stated. “It took a extremely very long time simply to get that power again in my wrist and my entire arm.
“No person actually is aware of how a lot work I needed to put in to get thus far … the tough nights of not realizing if I would ever get one other alternative. For me, that is every little thing.”
Getting a second lease on his soccer life has additionally given Ray new perspective.
“It is simply given me a brand new appreciation for the sport…. I have been house for 2 years so I used to be excited to return right here and put a helmet on and get fitted for my shoulder pads and have one other alternative to go and simply do what I like.”
Regardless of having an NFL pedigree, Ray is not taking something as a right in Toronto.
“I undoubtedly do not suppose should you’re a participant that is on this place, popping out right here and enjoying within the CFL, that it’s best to take it as highschool soccer or something like that,” he stated. “I can not say I’d simply come out right here and run by means of guys, that is not what is going on on.
“These guys all receives a commission, they arrive to work with their exhausting hats they usually’re able to go. I recognize the competitors that is been happening between our D-line, the O-line … it has been a complete lot of iron sharpening iron on the market.”
New workforce, new metropolis, new sport
Not solely is Ray adjusting to a brand new workforce, metropolis and league, he is additionally studying a brand new sport on the fly. That features having to line up a yard off the ball.
“I feel the way in which to reduce the impact of the yard is simply get off the ball,” he stated. “I actually have been attempting to tune into getting off the ball as quick as I can to shut the space between me and that deal with.
“I do not suppose a deal with actually desires me having loads of area to manoeuvre.”
At the very least Ray does not should look far by way of studying efficient pass-rush methods first-hand. Veteran Charleston Hughes, a six-time CFL all-star who has 130 profession sacks over 12 seasons, can be in his first yr with Toronto.
“I simply use that info and what I see in movie so as to add to what I have been doing in observe.”
And shortly Ray shall be joined on the sector by a well-known face. Defensive lineman Kony Ealy, a former Missouri teammate, is predicted to begin practising with Toronto this weekend after finishing his quarantine. Ealy was additionally with Carolina in its Tremendous Bowl loss to Denver.
“I can not wait to see him on the market,” Ray stated. “He brings a stage of physicality that I feel many guys on this league are going to battle with.”