Bye-ding time

Stamps coach Tom Higgins and No. 1 QB Henry Burris, sporting his cast at practice last week, both...

Stamps coach Tom Higgins and No. 1 QB Henry Burris, sporting his cast at practice last week, both welcome this week's bye. The Red and White, banged up and suffering from injuries, need some time to rest. (Calgary Sun/Stuart Dryden)

DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:04 AM ET

In late June, fresh out of training camp with the sun still hanging high in the sky and the Stampeders (along with every other CFL club) enjoying undefeated status, Tom Higgins was pressed to ruminate over the effects of an oddball Week 1 bye.

The veteran head coach shrugged off the line of questioning, claiming the early season lull was irrelevant.

Instead, the veteran of so many football wars insisted, his club's October respite would be crucial.

Now here we are with frost on the pumpkin and the 7-7 Stampeders find themselves two points out of second place in the West with a handful of key injuries chewing into the roster with everyone is enjoying 12 days between games.

Without another practice scheduled until Saturday morning, many players have jetted home to far-flung destinations across the continent, football the last thing on their minds.

A handful of refreshed bodies are expected to return to the lineup when the Hamilton Tiger-Cats visit McMahon Stadium Oct. 14 as the rejuvenated Stampeders begin a final push for the club's first playoff berth since 2001.

"This is a huge one," Higgins said.

"Back in June you've got all your bodies, you've got them all healthy so that was the most inappropriate time to have a bye but that's when the league gave it to us. This week is huge because we have the opportunity to re-group, refocus with four games to go.

"It's nice to know we could get our quarterback back soon, (defensive lineman) Demetrious Maxie will be back soon, (defensive back) Joey Boese will be back. The moment we start putting those pieces back together, we can start playing at a whole new level."

Higgins' quarterback, one Henry Burris, has been shelved the past three games with torn ligaments in his non-throwing hand.

He's expected to resume his starting duties wearing some kind of light playing cast when the team begins preparations for the Tabbies.

"I'm 2-1 as a coach but hopefully that stint is over," smiled the always affable pivot, who has been pacing the sidelines since early September.

Burris was planning to spend this week in Houston, inspecting his home after Hurricane Rita ravaged the state a couple of weeks ago.

The Stampeders starting lineup recently took on its share of damage, too, with Burris convinced this week's break will repair the wear and tear on the men in Red and White.

"It's tough to go 14 or 15 weeks in a row playing football -- bodies tend to get a little tired - so this bye week couldn't have come at a better time," Burris said.

"We now can start our stretch run (next week) to start our push for the playoffs, so for me the bye week couldn't have come at a better time.

"The guys needed a little rest now because nobody expects players not to get tired. That's just not being realistic, so this is at the right time. Now we have to take advantage of it."

The Stamps are two points out of second while the final four-game push -- Hamilton, Saskatchewan, Winnipeg and Edmonton -- will decide the club's fate.

"The guys are upbeat because we're in contention to make a run for the Grey Cup," said the always upbeat Burris, still hoping to pass the Eskimos and Roughriders to host the West semifinal.

"It's a toss up now in the West. When we come back we have Hamilton, so if we regroup, get some of us injured guys back healthy again, we'll be able to make a run at this thing.

"I can't wait. I'm looking forward to it. I'm not sure where I'll be at in terms of my rehab but I'll be a lot closer to getting that clearance I've been looking for to step back onto the field."


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