It's awkward in the pocket

DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:37 AM ET

Khari Jones ducked into the back of yesterday's Stampeders press conference, just in time to hear Jeremaine Copeland declare his excitement about a chance to catch passes from ... Henry Burris.

Oops!

Copeland grabbed his spanking new Red and White No. 80 jersey and said not only is he thrilled to be shown financial love in Calgary, he expects Burris, another free agent, to land here, too.

Jones was angry.

"If that's who they want, they should go after him and get him and just release me, that's fine," fumed the former MVP quarterback traded to Calgary from Winnipeg last fall by the previous regime.

"I think it's insulting when I've done everything individually that a quarterback can do in this league and I feel comfortable with myself and the things I can do.

"I've been MVP. I've won over 10 games, multiple years in a row. I've been to the Grey Cup, so those are things I stand behind. Now it's insulting to think I'll play second fiddle to just about anyone in this league.

"If that's who they want, they should go after him and release me."

It remains to be seen what the Stampeders will do should they sign Burris, a free agent after spending the last two seasons with Saskatchewan. The Stamps appear to be front-runners to sign Burris from the five CFL teams that have expressed an interest.

Head coach and v.p. of football operations Tom Higgins is treading softly on the subject, dearly coveting Burris but fearful of upsetting the incumbent quarterback who might still be his No. 1 pivot heading to training camp in June.

"We're going down both paths at the same time," Higgins said, trying to be as diplomatic as possible in an awkward situation.

"We've talked with Khari. He is our man. He might be our man, he could be our man. But being a professional athlete, he understands that we're trying to do the best we can for our football team and there is the business part.

"What we're trying to do in the meantime is not destroy anybody in the process.

"If we don't land Henry, and there's a chance of that because other teams have a chance at landing him, we truly feel Khari will be better here than at any time in his career. He's getting himself in top shape, feels very good and if that's the case we'll win with Khari Jones."

Should the Stamps sign Burris, it's likely they would release Jones instead of attempting to renegotiate his contract. Jones is on course to earn more than $300,000 in 2005, far more than a backup is worth.

A revamped deal isn't something Jones wants to contemplate.

"I don't want to talk about that," he said.

"Right now, it's at the point where it's like I'm not even here, so if that's the case ... I've been MVP. I've done a lot of good things in this league and I'm going to continue to do so. I played last year on an injured shoulder and I went out and threw for the coaches a few days ago and my shoulder's fine.

"I'll be back this year doing the things I know how to do if given the opportunity. If not, then no hard feelings and I'll just move on."


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