Quarterback peek

DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:49 AM ET

Khari Jones, all-star quarterback and fledgling thespian, proclaims he's memorized his lines, understands his role and is ready for his opening act on the big stage at McMahon Stadium.

The former Winnipeg Blue Bombers pivot, acquired three weeks ago by the Stampeders, is still recovering from a nagging shoulder injury but will start tomorrow against the visiting Toronto Argos in his first performance in Calgary silks.

"I've been coming in early and watching film with coach (Matt) Dunigan, getting a sense for things and just trying to absorb as much as I can," said Jones, noting he and his former pigskin passing boss are quickly developing a strong working relationship.

"(We've covered) a little bit of everything. We talk about the playbook, watch film of me in practice and things like that, just to shore up anything fundamentally.

"It's been good."

Jones was also schooled under current Ottawa head coach Joe Paopao when the Throwin' Samoan was toiling as the B.C. Lions offensive co-ordinator in the late 1990's.

"It was almost the same feeling as I have with coach Dunigan as far as somebody who's been there before and really understands that position," said Jones, who spent three seasons as a backup in Vancouver before being dealt to Winnipeg prior to his breakout season in 2000.

"It's a good thing. I don't think it's ever a bad thing when somebody has been in there and done well or failed and understands what a quarterback can and can't do."

Jones is quick to point out when working with Dunigan the rookie coach never glosses over his own shortcomings through 14 CFL seasons, leaving him fourth all-time in completion yards while also serving up more than 200 picks. Dunigan has often pointed out his inauspicious beginnings in Edmonton as Warren Moon's backup while Jones notes it's reassuring to work with a coach who understands the slim margin of error for the man lining up under centre.

"One of the big things about guys who used to play is they forget some of the bad things that used to happen, too," explained the 33-year-old Jones, who still trails his new boss by more than 23,000 completion yards.

"Once you retire, they only replay your completions or touchdowns, not the interceptions. That's one good thing about coach Dunigan and Paopao for that matter, is they realize they made mistakes. Coach Dunigan mentions it all the time. He'll say, 'I threw 211 picks, you know?' "

Considering Jones' hefty salary pegged at $300,000 per season, easily making him the highest paid Stampeder, Dunigan obviously expects impressive results from the man he's rolled the dice to acquire. But there's no pressure, at least right now

"As a player, you want a coach who realizes you're not going to go out there and be perfect every game and doesn't expect that," Jones said.

"If Khari's fine, I'll let him roll," Dunigan said about Jones' first Stamps start, warning critics to not expect too much in his debut.

"The weight of the world should not be on his shoulders at this point. We're trying to build this football team and gain some momentum going into the off-season, get him comfortable with his weapons and the personnel around him and not put all the expectations on him.

"It's not a do-or-die situation, it's a glimpse of Khari Jones, his leadership, his poise, his ability to make plays, his consistency and all those things he brings to the table. This will be a glimpse over the next three weeks of what he's capable of doing."


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