Private practices hid QB's injury

IAN BUSBY

, Last Updated: 9:28 AM ET

It turns out the Calgary Stampeders were hiding more than just a few interesting plays last week but the practice lockout had the effect they were hoping for.

Stamps coach Tom Higgins revealed yesterday backup quarterback Akili Smith wouldn't have been available in the season opener against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats because of a quad injury.

However, they didn't need him as Henry Burris efficiently spread the ball around and George Cortez's offensive creativity were too much as the Stamps beat the Ticats 37-9 Saturday night at McMahon Stadium.

The Stamps closed practice to the media and public all week to run plays such as Marc Boerigter lining up in the backfield or rolling out in a double tight-end set.

Burris also got the nod to pull the ball down and run some quarterback draws, while every player eligible to catch a pass had one thrown his way.

The formations Cortez put together looked familiar to Higgins, who coached the Edmonton Eskimos in 2001 when the Stamps rolled through to the Grey Cup.

"I was on the other side of this creativity before," said Higgins, "I was with Edmonton and we finished in first place. We had a veteran defensive back (Shannon Garrett) get hurt.

"We had to prepare a young DB but they came with all these different looks and his head was spinning.

"With George and how he's learned to have fun with different formations, it creates mismatches. Without people having the opportunity to prepare for it is a double whammy."

Burris said the best indication the offence was clicking was when the Tiger-Cats defence made a couple of great plays in the first half.

First linebacker Renard Cox knocked the ball loose from Marc Boerigter's grip to create a fumble.

Later in the half, Zeke Moreno stopped Burris on a third-down quarterback sneak by blasting over top of his defensive line.

"He came over fast and hit me hard in the head," Burris said.

"He timed it perfect and made a great play. But we were moving the ball, so we just kept at it and that's what we wanted to do.

"The next drive, we went out and moved the ball to get a score. We stayed within ourselves. It was a good start. Hamilton is going to be a contender in the East but we were in the zone."

Burris' favourite receiving target was Ken-Yon Rambo, who had four balls thrown his way.

He caught three of them for 92 yards, the most by any receiver, but no player caught more than three passes.

Rambo said the receiving corps doesn't mind waiting for their chances but they know they need to make the most of every ball that comes their way.

"If that's how we win games, it's not a problem for us," Rambo said. "That's the key, we want the win. The ball was spread around very well yesterday because Hank did a good job spotting coverages and taking the correct shots.

"Cortez did a good job scheming and we put it to good use."

Heading into the game, and even afterwards, Higgins was asked about whether Smith would go in to spell Burris.

Before the game, the questions were about what happens if Burris fails, but afterwards they were about sending Smith in for work in a blowout.

Higgins just smiled and bit his tongue.

"He wasn't an option," Higgins said. "Barrick Nealy was more of an option.

"We talked to Akili and told him he wasn't going in.

"He said, 'I was hoping not to.' "

And the Stamps are hoping he's not needed at all this season.


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