Burris standing by ball tale

WES GILBERTSON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 11:55 AM ET

The Calgary Stampeders were finishing their on-field preparations for tonight's showdown with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers when the whispers started circulating on the sidelines.

Of all the quarterbacks that have passed through town, so the story goes, only one -- rocket-armed Bombers saviour Michael Bishop -- has bounced a pigskin off the loudspeaker that hangs high (some 80 yards straight up) above the turf at McMahon Stadium.

Stamps signal-caller Henry Burris begs to differ.

"Nooooo. That's not true," Burris protested. "When I was a rookie, I used to do that every week -- throw the ball and hit that. I made certain we did that because I guess we had a winning streak going whenever I did that ... I hit that thing all the time.

"(Bishop) was after me."

When one reporter questioned the validity of Hank's tale, the reigning Grey Cup MVP persisted.

"Ask Dickie, he'll tell you," Burris insisted, scanning the turf for any sign of quarterback-turned-coach Dave Dickenson. "Where's Dave? Dave saw it."

Dickenson, for the record, can't recall watching any of Burris' attempts graze the sound system. Ditto for Stamps offensive co-ordinator George Cortez, although neither would rule it out.

Bishop, a backup with the Toronto Argonauts when he achieved the feat a few years ago, hasn't forgotten.

"Oh yeah, I remember that," Bishop said.

"Actually, I had a bet with (Argos defensive lineman Leroy Blugh). He gave me 10 throws and I think I hit it on the third throw. I won a little money off it."

The main speaker should be safe, but the Stamps will have to be wary of Bishop's spring-loaded right arm when the two teams battle tonight (7:30 p.m., McMahon Stadium, TSN).

The Blue Bombers plucked the eight-year veteran off his couch a week-and-a-half ago, making him their starting pivot just three days after he was added to the roster.

It's the third CFL stop for Bishop, who split last year between the Argonauts and Saskatchewan Roughriders.

No matter where he goes, the first thing you hear about the former Kansas State Wildcats star is his extraordinary arm strength. That used to be Hank's calling card, too. When Burris first signed with the Stamps in 1997, he came with a reputation as a guy who could throw the ball miles downfield. But ...

"Michael Bishop is in a league of his own when it comes to strong arms," Burris said. "He's got a rocket in his right arm. I haven't seen an arm strong like that in a long time. I know I can throw it hard a little bit, but not anywhere close to him."

The key, though, is knowing when to fire the rifle.

Through 111 career outings, Bishop has thrown 52 touchdown passes, but has also served up 57 interceptions.

Burris' TD-to-turnover ratio has improved in each of the past three campaigns. The 11-year CFL veteran tossed 39 majors last season, while being picked off just 13 times.

In 143 career appearances, Burris has thrown 183 touchdowns and 110 interceptions.

"As you grow in years and get that experience, you understand the fact that you don't need to muscle the ball to every guy," he said.

"You start throwing with more touch and working more on your accuracy, and that's something I continue to work on now ... Whatever the case may be, I feel I can make that throw now. It comes with time."

WES.GILBERTSON@SUNMEDIA.CA


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