Hank displays his ol' cannon

IAN BUSBY -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 1:03 PM ET

Henry Burris took a three-step drop in the pocket, then zinged a 90 m.p.h. fastball three ft. past a wide-open Jeremaine Copeland.

The Calgary Stampeders receiver just laughed running back to the huddle where his quarterback was waiting with a big smile on his face.

It was Burris' first practice with the first-string offence since tearing ligaments in his left thumb on his non-throwing hand four weeks ago.

"He's got some juice on it," said Copeland. "I'm pretty sure he's fired up about getting back.

"The athlete and competitor he is, he wants to get back on the field. We're happy to have him back out there. We were starting to roll before he got hurt and now we have a chance to get into the playoff race."

With four games remaining in a tight West Division playoff race, Burris is set to return Friday against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

His left hand is still in a cast, although the appendage was changed this week into a more flexible unit that allows him to handle the ball from the centre.

Head coach Tom Higgins put Burris through a variety of different plays in the first practice off the team's bye week to see how he responded.

"We're going to push him to do everything," Higgins said. "We have to find out if there is stuff he can't do. He passed the first test.

"We're going to pick up the tempo on him. With that said, we're still going to have to be cognizant that a game situation can be very different."

With Burris sidelined, the Stamps went 2-1 with Jason Gesser and Danny Wimprine at the helm.

Burris was dressed and on the bench for the only loss -- last Saturday against Montreal -- and couldn't help but jump up and down with stress. Now that he is set to return, Burris said there are plenty of things he will do differently, including making the smart play instead of forcing things.

"It gave me an opportunity to look at things from a different perspective," Burris said. "I know one thing: I don't want to ever be a coach.

"I was able to look at our offence from a different perspective and figure out how to better manage it."

One of the main concerns for the coaching staff is whether Burris can scramble out of the pocket with confidence and risk taking a hit or landing on his left hand.

"Basically, everything is good with it now and no more harm can be done," Burris said.

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RETURNER INKED: The only player sitting out yesterday's practice was return specialist Terrence Wilkins, who has an MCL sprain. To replace Wilkins, the club has signed David Allen, who is a recent cut of the NFL's Jacksonville Jaguars.


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