Smiling at criticism

Calgary Stampeders receiver Ken-Yon Rambo, left, watches quarterback Henry Burris map out a route...

Calgary Stampeders receiver Ken-Yon Rambo, left, watches quarterback Henry Burris map out a route during practice at McMahon Stadium Tuesday. (Calgary Sun/Darren Makowichuk)

IAN BUSBY -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 7:51 AM ET

There's just no way to insult Henry Burris or break his confidence.

Rider Nation, a Calgary-based group of Roughriders fans, has printed T-shirts that say 'Burris Sucks' in dark green lettering on black.

The Calgary Stampeders quarterback's response?

"That just shows that they love me," Smilin' Hank said with, well, a smile. "Little do they know it makes it more special for me during the game."

Ideally, Burris would like to be leading the league in yards, touchdowns and completion percentage heading into Saturday's showdown with the Saskatchewan Roughriders and the legion of their fans who fill McMahon Stadium's seats.

But it really doesn't matter to him. Burris understands why Rider Nation is rejoicing at his poor fortune this season.

Calgary, with its high-priced free-agent QB, is 1-2.

Saskatchewan, using the forgotten quarterback in the scenario, Nealon Greene, sits at 3-1.

Burris finds the early stats overblown. There's plenty of time for the Stamps to get back on track.

And three games certainly do not indicate whether you actually 'suck.'

"It's not where you start, it's where you finish," said Burris, who's sitting sixth in the league in passing yards. "I plan on finishing on the podium.

"Having some struggles early will make us a better team in the end. Look at the teams last year that struggled and came out great in the end."

Saskatchewan is the best example.

It stumbled out of the gate in 2004 when Greene broke his leg in the season opener. Before the 'Riders knew it, they were 1-4 and appeared to be headed for a dismal season.

Things started to come together once Burris rounded into form and the offence started clicking. The rest is history.

There's another example Burris would like to mention -- when the Stamps struggled in his first CFL season.

"Look at 1997, we lost the first three games and people were thinking they would be on the next boat out of here," Burris said. "Then we won 10 games and lost the West semifinal to the 'Riders.

"We're learning under fire but it's building character on this team. That's something that will take you much further than statistics ever will."

One young 'Riders fan showed up at McMahon Stadium yesterday to watch practice and meet players. He happened to be wearing Greene's No. 15. In the next couple of days, as more and more fans trickle into the city, Burris expects the rivalry to heat up exponentially.

The new T-shirts could be all over the Stadium but don't expect Burris to stop smiling when seeing them.

"It will be a fun-filled week but, once the game gets going, they're wearing green and I'm wearing white," Burris said. "We're going to hate you because of the team you play for but we'll love you for who you are.

"So it's going to be a special environment in the city."


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