Burris has reason to smile

WES GILBERTSON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:51 AM ET

Calgary Stampeders slotback Jeremaine Copeland scoffs at the suggestion Henry Burris could be running out of gusto in his rocket right arm.

"Ain't nothin' changed. If anything, his throws have gotten harder," Copeland said. "He still has the spunk, and I'm pretty sure the spunk is going to be there for a while."

Burris will be sticking around McMahon Stadium for a while after the defending Grey Cup champs announced yesterday the star signal-caller has signed a four-year contract extension, which averages about $400,000 per season, that'll keep him in Red & White through the 2012 season.

The 34-year-old pivot is coming off a career season capped by his first championship as the go-to guy, and his new pact means he'll almost undoubtedly finish his career in the same city where got his start as a third-stringer.

"When I was here backing up Jeff (Garcia) and Dave (Dickenson), and I saw how the people of Calgary just (embraced) the team, I told them one day, I wanted to be the starting quarterback of this team," Burris said yesterday. "I told them that would be a dream come true, and what do you know? I'm living my dream.

"That's why I put so much passion into doing this thing, and that's why we are here for good."

Burris threw 39 touchdown strikes and racked up a career-high 5,093 passing yards last season, when he was named the West Division's most outstanding player nominee and MVP of the Grey Cup game.

With statistics like that, there's little doubt the Spiro, Okla., product would've commanded top dollar on the free-agent market next winter, but Burris preferred to stay put.

He couldn't wait to tell his family and friends about the prolonged pact, which is why the news was leaked on his personal website Thursday night.

"It shows you how excited we are to be here," he said. "We want to be a part of this. We want to be here until we hang up that jersey one day, and definitely this is our way to show that."

After walking off the practice field yesterday at McMahon Stadium, Smilin' Hank signed dozens of uniforms and footballs that will be used for giveaways at home games.

Word he'd also put his signature on a four-year pact was enough to leave a smile on the face of many of his teammates.

"Without question, he is the captain of this ship, and I really don't think the ship would be rolling in the right direction without him, so I think it's great for this team and great for this city," said Copeland, who signed on with Stamps in February 2005, eight days before Burris returned for his second stint with a horse on his helmet.

"I think it's great for this team, without question. Great. Underline that."

Burris had some good news for the rest of the bunch, too.

Although the two-time West Division all-star dodged questions about whether he accepted a hometown discount, he said he left enough cash in the Stampeders' bank account to keep his buddies employed and give the club some salary-cap room.

WES.GILBERTSON@SUNMEDIA.CA


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