Hank went blank on hit

The Stamps can't afford another crushing blow like the one that put Henry Burris on the sidelines...

The Stamps can't afford another crushing blow like the one that put Henry Burris on the sidelines last season. (Sun Media/Darren Makowichuk)

STEVE MACFARLANE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:33 AM ET

Amnesia is convenient when it blocks painful memories.

Like the hit Henry Burris took in Hamilton last season as the Calgary Stampeders quarterback was driving on the Tiger-Cats defence for what would have been the winning touchdown in the final minute of the game.

Tripped up by JoJuan Armour and landed on by Zeke Moreno, Burris wound up with a dislocated shoulder.

"Everything went blank from there," Burris said yesterday as the team returned to the field in anticipation of Friday's game at Ivor Wynne Stadium. "I kind of built amnesia from that point on. I don't want to remember what that hit felt like."

The team felt it. The Stamps lost both games Burris missed with the injury and never got back on track while dropping four of last next five regular-season contests, and then the West semifinal. They would feel it just as badly if something were to happen to their star pivot this year.

As much team depth as they boast, the QB position isn't the same with Dave Dickenson's career in jeopardy with concussion problems. He was signed as insurance -- surely with last year's incident in mind -- but his absence leaves Barrick Nealy and Ben Sankey as the backups.

Before that pivotal game in the Steel City, the Stamps were on a roll. They'd won three straight and were unbeaten in four with a 6-4-1 record.

On a high entering this week's game with two straight victories and six of their last seven, the Stamps can't afford another crushing blow like the one that put Burris on the sidelines. He's setting personal bests in touchdowns and yardage and is on his way to becoming the CFL's Most Outstanding Player.

He credits that, at least in part, to that fateful hit at Ivor Wynne.

"I'm thankful for what happened. It's made me better for this year," said Burris, who spent the off-season working hard to improve his strength, flexibility, quickness and endurance as a result.

"Of course for last year, it wasn't the best thing. But for the future it's definitely turned out to be the best thing that could ever happen to me.

"It's allowed me be more durable this year."

His decision-making has changed, too.

"I also don't play Superman, where I'm diving and doing all these other sort of things that I've done in the past," said Burris. "That's what comes with being a veteran and going through things. You learn things mentally and also physically. That's why I'm making better decisions."

Those better decisions don't only apply to self-preservation. His management skills were highlighted in Burris' five-touchdown, zero-interception performance in Saturday's win over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

Turnovers were once a weakness for Burris, whose split personalities taking care of the ball were nicknamed Hank and Frank by a former teammate.

Stampeders head coach John Hufnagel has never met Frank, the 'bad Hank.'

"I don't know any Henry except the one that's playing this year," said Hufnagel.

"He's played outstanding football all year long. He's managing the game very well. He's cut down on turnovers -- we have, as a football team the least amount of turnovers in the league."

Sounds like an MVP type season so far. Burris' teammates certainly think so. The quarterback has other things on his mind right now.

"We're going for something even bigger. That's the chance to solidify ourselves as the No. 1 seed in the West and get that first-round bye. I haven't even thought about anything else," said Burris, whose Stamps can clinch just that with a victory at Ivor Wynne.


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