Answer the question time

DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 1:50 PM ET

For three weeks, Henry Burris has endured the questions. Always smiling, he's responded like any quarterback under pressure to perform yet struggling to make it happen.

The Stampeders pivot has stood in the line of fire, fielding queries about when his offence will (finally) begin finding the endzone and lighting up the scoreboard.

After three games and just three offensive touchdowns, Burris yesterday submitted himself to the grilling once again. The only difference this time was the media scrum came on the eve of his first real encounter with his former team.

The 3-1 Roughriders -- without Burris since the free agent signed in Calgary in February -- seem to have carried on this season without missing a beat.

Under Nealon Greene's guidance they'll stride onto the McMahon Stadium turf tonight slight favourites despite a raft of injuries that's forced eight starters from the lineup.

In Calgary, the transition to Burris, 30, hasn't been quite so smooth. The seven-year CFL veteran has posted a miserable 66.4% efficiency rating while throwing just two TD passes to go with his five interceptions.

While his numbers are below average, so has been the play of pricey free-agent receiver Jeremaine Copeland and former NFLer Ken-Yon Rambo.

So the question was again asked: Just when will the Stampeders offence begin living up to the great expectations?

"If we were right now 3-0 going into this game, it would probably be a different story because we'd be living high on the hog, just as high as they are coming into this game," Burris says of his old mates.

"We'd be so comfortable with what we're doing ... but right now our focus is just on executing the plays we have to get done. Execute the plays that are called and not make any mistakes. When we get in the scoring zone, we need to put the ball in the endzone."

Burris claims any jitters over facing his old club were swept away in a pre-season game in Calgary. That night Burris was able to renew old acquaintances before getting down to business, a meaningless win that again didn't see him throw a touchdown pass.

"I got over all of that in the pre-season. To see them on the field on the opposing sideline. That for me was an important time and I told the coaches it would be that way," Burris says. "So now, it's just time to go out and play. We've got to get a victory and for me that's first and foremost despite who we're playing."

It isn't easy quantifying Burris's progress through three games. Dropped passes and occasional success have left the coaching staff scratching their heads.

Head coach Tom Higgins says no matter how ugly the team's performance, the club will be graded by its win-loss record.

"At the end of the day, he will be judged, as well as I will be judged, on wins and losses," says Higgins, who saw his Stampeders take a disturbing step backwards last week against the Renegades. "There are some psychological gains that can be made early in the football season. Had we gone to Ottawa last week and played that game tooth and nail, back and forth, moving the ball offensively, we wouldn't have had to answer any questions this week.

"Now it becomes the ultimate challenge because this is a very good football team that's been together for a number of years. They know how to play."

Burris, as always, is keen on success early in tonight's game, possibly relying on tailback Joffrey Reynolds to move the chains. Reynolds enters the game with a 6.3-yard average but has been underutilized through three games.

"That's something we've had success with so we have to do it, we need to do it and keep it balanced," says Burris, who will face a defence without starting linemen Nate Davis and Daved Benefield.

"Last week we were behind earlier, playing in a catch-up situation and it negated our running game and put more emphasis on our passing. Against a team like Saskatchewan, you want to control the line of scrimmage and one of the ways is running the ball."

Adding to the pressure to perform tonight will be the presence of some 10,000 Roughriders supporters, intent on letting Burris know he's now considered a traitor by the self-proclaimed 'World's Greatest Fans.'

"I won't even hear 'em," Burris claims. "I'm more focused on what we have to do."

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SASKATCHEWAN ROUGHRIDERS @ CALGARY STAMPEDERS

TONIGHT AT 8 P.M., TSN BLACKOUT LIFTED


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