Champs pledge turnaround

Calgary Stampeders quarterback Henry Burris during CFL action at McMahon Stadium in Calgary on...

Calgary Stampeders quarterback Henry Burris during CFL action at McMahon Stadium in Calgary on Wednesday, July 1, 2009. (AL CHAREST/SUN MEDIA)

RANDY SPORTAK

, Last Updated: 8:31 AM ET

It won't go down in history with Babe Ruth's called shot or Mark Messier's guaranteed playoff win, but Ryan Thelwell had a proclamation for the Calgary Stampeders.

"I promise you we'll be ready this week," the receiver said. "You're going to see a different Calgary Stampeders."

Yes, he meant 'different' as in 'better' when they face the Toronto Argonauts Friday.

As if there wasn't enough of a damper around the Stampeders with their 0-2 start to the season, the pounding rain yesterday made practice feel like it was during a monsoon.

However, the defending Grey Cup champs know eventually the rain will stop in this city -- at least, we believe it will -- and eventually they'll find their form after back-to-back disappointing losses.

Calgary wasn't flawless last season, but at least the team didn't often suffer from slow starts. Other than the Labour Day Classic loss to the Edmonton Eskimos, the Stamps had their guns slinging before the first quarter ended.

In both games this season, they've hit the field with a collective thud and fallen behind by wide margins.

As they gear up for a date with the Argos at McMahon Stadium, it's obvious the starting point for the Stampeders is the starts.

"Call if flat -- call it what you like -- but both games started with bad plays, and it went from there," Thelwell said. "We've managed to pick it up, but it's too late. We have to pick up the intensity from the start.

"I promise you this week we will come out and we will be intense."

The sentiment echoed throughout the dressing room.

"Each season, you're presented with different obstacles," said Stampeders quarterback Henry Burris. "Right now, it's a slow start in two games. That's our biggest thing, right now. Once we get over that hurdle, trust me, another one will come up.

"This game, you have to be so fine-tuned -- you'll always have an obstacle you have to get over. At the end of last season, we had to score touchdowns instead of field goals in the green zone. That was an obstacle we had down the stretch.

"Right now, it's just having a good start as a team."

The problems do go beyond limping out of the gates, though.

The defence has surrendered a league-worst 82 points. It's allowed the most rushing yards.

On the other side of the ball, the offence's lack of success in the early going and wave of turnovers is a major discussion point.

"We've just got a case of the Grey Cup hangover going on, and we've got to find a way to get through this," Burris said.

"If there's any team I think will be all right by the end of the regular season and will be knocking on the door with the rest of the teams, it's the team in this locker-room."

Being the pivot, and reigning Grey Cup MVP, Burris is naturally directly in the crosshairs.

Smiling Hank has coughed up four interceptions already this season, with only one touchdown pass.

"There's nothing wrong with me," Burris said. "I'm doing my reads and playing the game I always play it. Sometimes when things don't go your way, they just don't go your way. You have to push through it, and that's what I'm going to do."

Certainly an improved offence would benefit the defence, which has been victimized by having to defend a short field all too often simply because the offence hasn't done any favours with all those turnovers.

"Offensively, we've got to do ourselves a favour first," Burris said. "We're not doing ourselves, anybody, a favour by not getting off to a good start. We do things like that and keep our defence on the field, we're not giving anybody a chance.

"But we'll fight our way through it. We'll look at the bad things we did and move on from that."

At least there are four more months of regular-season action remaining to get the ship pointed completely in the right direction.

"It's something that helps your team improve from the beginning," Burris said. "This team is 0-2, but the season's not over, and we have a long way to go. This team will rebuild.

"We'll get it together and will be ready to play a great game this Friday."

RANDY.SPORTAK@SUNMEDIA.CA


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