Wooing begins

DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:43 AM ET

Henry Burris didn't jump at the Stampeders' sales pitch on Day 1 of free agency but the revamped franchise has his undivided attention.

The Stampeders have opened talks with the free-agent quarterback and might meet with him in Calgary to discuss a contract offer.

Burris added he's intrigued by the club's new ownership group and its potential to rebuild the franchise into a winner, possibly led by him.

"When you see a move that big that involves an organization as good as Calgary's, you can't do anything but pay attention to it," Burris, 29, said from his off-season home in Houston.

"Guys all across the league, free agents, signed players and unsigned players, are all talking about it. It's definitely something you have to pay attention to.

"My agent is going to call me in the morning and let me know if anything's arranged for me to come up to Calgary and meet with the team.

"We said whoever's interested in my services, we'd see what they have to offer and get to know everyone and sit down face-to-face and talk with them. Hopefully, something will be set up to come up there to see what the team has to offer."

Burris could command a yearly salary of close to $350,000 which would place him among the highest-paid quarterbacks in the CFL.

Saskatchewan GM Roy Shivers on Tuesday reportedly made what he characterized as his team's final offer -- in the neighbourhood of $300,000, plus bonuses -- which Burris turned down to enter free agency.

Burris said he and Staninger aren't sure if Shivers' public stance was just a negotiating ploy or a declaration the Green and White won't budge another nickel.

As of last night the Roughriders hadn't increased their last offer to Burris.

"A lot of people are speculating whether I'm still connected to Saskatchewan and whether I'm using the free agency period as leverage against them," Burris said.

"We're going about it seriously, trying to find out what other teams have to offer. We had a chance to go at it with Saskatchewan and couldn't get a deal done so now, if it's time to move on, it's just that. It's not personal, it's just business.

"That's why we're moving on with free agency by seeing what teams were out there that are interested in us, checking out their situations and getting ready to make a decision."

Burris said the Stampeders' pursuit of free agent receivers Jeremaine Copeland, who spent the last four seasons in Montreal, and Chris Brazzell, formerly of the B.C. Lions, also makes Calgary an enticing option.

"When you get big-time receivers out there, any quarterback needs the best talent around him he can have and we do it as a whole offensively," Burris said.

"You have to have good receivers, good backs and an offensive line. And to have a guy like Copeland or Brazzell, any quarterback would love to have those guys.

"In the CFL, you can turn a team around pretty fast and make it a winner but Calgary already has a great defence and that's always an important thing. You have to have a defence and they already have that in Calgary, will continue to build on that and you definitely know they're going to contend this year and in the future."

Burris said returning to Calgary this season is also attractive for several off-field reasons but they're not a big factor.

"First of all, you have to know the team wants you there but you have to always love the city of Calgary," Burris said.

"It's one of the best cities in North America to live, as far as the beauty, the people and everything. Even when my playing days are over, I'll still feel the same way about how great Calgary is but that doesn't affect this decision."

Stampeders president Ted Hellard said he won't rate his team's chances of signing the prized pivot.

"It will depend on what his mindset is," said Hellard, who expects to speak to Burris personally during negotiations.

"In terms of a place to live, a competitive team to be on and a life beyond football opportunities, Calgary is second to none. When it comes to money, you just never know because you don't know what other teams will go to."


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