In the eyes of Saskatchewan Roughriders fans, Henry Burris has gone from the QB they love to the one they love to hate.
"I can only imagine," Burris sighed last night when told of the firestorm of criticism he's receiving from the 'Rider Nation, the legions of obsessive fans stretching across Canada, with thousands located here in Calgary.
"I've talked to a lot of the 'Riders players. We're all still the best of friends and they understand the position I'm in."
'Riders faithful are convinced Burris turned his back on their team and their province by signing in Calgary after saying he wanted to win a Grey Cup for Saskatchewan.
Burris is being called a liar by Roughriders fans in letters to the editor, postings on fan websites and radio call-in shows.
It's an accusation he denies.
"I've never lied to the fans there and I still haven't lied because I said I wanted to come back there. But I don't make those decisions," said Burris, 29, who signed with the Roughies in 2003 after NFL stints with Green Bay and Chicago.
"The question that was asked so many times was, 'Does Henry want to play with the 'Riders?'
"The question that should have been asked was, 'How bad do the 'Riders want Henry to come back?'
"I was saying the whole entire time that I wanted to play in Saskatchewan again.
"We were coming off a Western Final campaign where we should have been in the Grey Cup, so I think people knew clearly where I wanted to be to win a Grey Cup. Again, that wasn't my decision to make as far as whether I was going to stay. If I had stayed, I would have been doing my family and my career an injustice."
Burris claims other CFL teams offered more lucrative contracts two seasons ago but he returned to Saskatchewan because he loved playing there. He insists the contract status of fellow Roughriders QB Nealon Greene, who signed an extension through 2007, clouded his own future in Regina and affected his decision.
"People don't understand when I came back in 2003, I took less money to play in Saskatchewan. I can only do that so many times in my career," said Burris, even though conventional wisdom suggests accepting starter's money would have secured his No. 1 status.
"If I put myself in a situation where I end up being 33 years old and I'm still playing for less money and being a backup, possibly because Nealon is back and all those things, then I'm not doing my family justice."
Burris took over the Roughriders' starting role last season after Greene broke his leg in the season opener.
Burris said one of the many factors spurring his decision to move West this season involved Roughriders GM Roy Shivers' public stance.
Shivers reportedly claimed even if Burris left, the team still had a capable No. 1 quarterback in Greene.
"If Saskatchewan really wanted me, they would have been saying the right things in the papers and to us to get us back there instead of saying, 'Does Henry really want to be here?' and 'He wants to dodge competition.'
"Actions speak louder than words. We sent forth the numbers and said, 'Hey, if you guys want to match this, even though it's lower than all the bidders that came out, we will come back to Saskatchewan.' But they failed to do it."
Reports have Shivers claiming he offered Burris $301,000, $326,000 and $337,000 over three seasons to re-sign with the Roughriders, something Burris denies.
"It never reached $300,000, I can promise you that," Burris insisted, adding only key bonuses would allow him to achieve those values.
"I have no reason to lie about it. It never reached $300,000. It was in the high 200s. I won't say exact numbers."
Burris said he empathizes with Roughriders fans now angered by his departure but player movement is the nature of professional sports.
"I understand there would be some animosity ... but, in a football player's life, every decision that's made is scrutinized," Burris said.
"The thing is, at some point, you have to look out for yourself."