By hook or by Rooke?

ERIC FRANCIS -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 10:53 AM ET

Make no mistake, Henry Burris wants to come back to Calgary. And thanks, in large part, to past-president Ron Rooke, it should -- and very likely will -- come to pass this week.

It was Rooke who made the Roughriders quarterback aware of Calgary's interest several months ago when the former Stamps president went public with the team's plans to pursue Smilin' Hank when he becomes a free agent Feb. 16.

The Sun has learned Rooke's obvious tampering, which netted the club a paltry $1,000 fine, prompted a phone call from Burris' then-agent Jerrold Colton to then-head coach/GM Matt Dunigan.

During the lengthy conversation, which was contrary to league rules, Colton made it clear Burris and his new bride, Nicole, were hoping to return to the city where the 29-year-old Burris got his CFL start in 1997.

Colton has since been fired and replaced by agent Ken Staninger, who says that while Burris is focused on talks with Saskatchewan, he's a "smart guy," intonating he'd exercise free agency where he could attract much more than the $225,000 the Roughriders recently offered.

From his home in Houston, the ever-accommodating and cordial Burris plays the public relations game by saying he hopes to be back in Regina. He's too classy and intelligent to say anything else publicly.

Yet, his long association with coach Danny Barrett and GM Roy Shivers -- which dates back to Calgary -- couldn't possibly be as strong as once thought. It was Barrett who slapped Burris in the face by opening the 2004 season with Nealon Greene instead of the strong-armed Burris, who has a running game and character to boot. Only when Greene got hurt in the first game did Burris get his chance to show the sort of moxie that led to a division semifinal upset over Edmonton and a brilliant showing in the division final overtime loss.

Burris' talent, leadership and marketability are unquestionable.

So now it's up to the Stamps.

Team president Ted Hellard told the Sun last week he wanted to be "aggressive" with player signings and said "without question" the club's downfall came two years ago when Michael Feterik rejected free agent Dave Dickenson's desire to return.

While the situation is similar with Burris likely up for grabs Wednesday, the Stamps need to decide whether they want 33-year-old Khari Jones or 29-year-old Burris heading up the squad.

The man who will make that call is Tom Higgins, who refused to risk tampering charges by talking of specific free agents. Of his current starter, with whom he has yet to talk turkey, Higgins would only say: "Khari needs to have a great off-season."

Hardly a ringing endorsement for a man slated to be paid almost $350,000 this year.

If Burris was signed by Calgary -- for somewhere in the neighbourhood of $275,000 to $350,000 -- the club would undoubtedly ask Jones to renegotiate his contract.

If he refused, he would be traded or released without costing the club a dime.

Having assembled an all-star coaching staff blessed with a dominating defence, the Stamps need only to fill a few key positions on offence to again challenge for a Grey Cup. If the starting quarterback is considered to be one of them, Burris is the only legit alternative.

Player-personnel man Jim Barker said the talented staff will likely make changes.

"Obviously, I think there are going to be changes," Barker said.

"If that means going after a quarterback, that's what we'll do."

You bet they will.


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