Hank is smiling again

IAN BUSBY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:28 AM ET

The last time Smilin' Hank made a public appearance in Calgary, his mood directly contradicted his nickname.

Almost six months ago, Henry Burris was hanging his head and fighting off tears after losing to the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the CFL playoffs.

So seeing Burris return to his bubbly, talkative and laughing self yesterday in announcing the lineup for his second annual All-Star Weekend should be a welcome sight for Calgary Stampeders fans.

"Having such a long period of time after the season, it's easy to reflect and look back on what you did wrong," said Burris.

"I put those feelings on the shelf and get them when I have to use them again."

With training camp exactly a month away, Burris is feeling refreshed mentally and physically and is excited about the changes the Stamps made in the off-season.

But before he hits the field at McMahon Stadium to try and erase the disappointments of 2006, Burris will be the centrepiece of a fun weekend.

Stamps players and a few special football guests such as former Stamp and NFLer Jeff Garcia, Damon Allen, Mark Rypien and Don Narcisse will participate in a celebrity softball game May 19 at Foothills Stadium.

The gathering, which benefits Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Calgary, unofficially marks the start of football season -- a pivotal one for Burris and the Stamps s they look to go deeper into the post-season.

"Looking at the event, I find it a good opportunity to get some great former Calgary athletes back here to raise money for a good cause," Burris said.

"It's a kickoff to the season for the team. But it also shows the guys are out in the community contributing.

"We want to make the team excel on the field but also do what we can in the community to help out."

A lot has changed for the Stamps since Burris last took off his red helmet.

The team fired offensive co-ordinator Steve Buratto and replaced him with George Cortez.

Two-fifths of last year's starting offensive line -- Alexandre Gauthier and Taylor Robertson -- was traded away.

Burris' backups, Danny McManus and David Corley, were replaced by former NFLer Akili Smith and prospect Barrick Nealy.

Calgary also has brought an old face back in receiver Marc Boerigter, plus signed free-agent Ryan Thelwell.

Yet Burris feels the team becoming a cohesive unit already because Cortez has brought the local offensive players together up to three times a week for meetings and workouts.

"It's something we haven't done much in the past few years," Burris said.

"It was tough to lose Buratto last year because our communication was getting much better. He was the (offensive line) coach and maybe we didn't spend the time we needed together.

"We've already been on the field with Cortez. It's good to get an early start because we already know what we're expecting to see when the season starts."


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