Expect a snap decision

IAN BUSBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:37 AM ET

John Hufnagel claims his pecking order for quarterbacks will be a game-time decision this week, but there are hints he's dropping in preparation.

At least the backup pivots are starting to understand there is a new No. 2 behind bona fide starter Henry Burris.

Although Drew Tate hasn't been told specifically he would be the one in if Burris were to get hurt or pulled, everyone at practice can see he's getting more reps with the offence now than Barrick Nealy.

"I guess so," Tate said when asked if he's No. 2. "I've been the first one after Hank getting reps."

This is Tate's first season with the Stamps after spending two years on the practice roster of the Saskatchewan Roughriders. He has yet to throw a pass in a CFL game but has dressed for every one this season with Calgary. Through scout-team practice, Tate has impressed Hufnagel enough with his proficiency.

"He's responded well to coaching," Hufnagel said. "His accuracy has improved. I've been more impressed with his arm strength since the start of training camp. He's done some of the things you like to see a quarterback do.

"He does a good job of managing the plays when he's put in with the first team. We are rewarding that type of progress."

When Nealy has played in regular-season action, there are several things to be positive about. The 6-foot-5, 220-pounder runs well and has a presence on the field.

But his throwing hasn't developed as much as the Stamps would like.

Several CFL teams use a designated backup to run short-yardage plays and Nealy would seem ideal for that role, but the Stamps feel their offence is too complex to take Burris out for those situations. To his credit, Nealy's accepting the move to make Tate No. 2.

"Drew has done a great job grasping hold of the offence," Nealy said. "They feel he deserves to get in there and get as many reps as he can.

"All I can do is focus on bettering myself with whatever reps I get."

Tate never really got a shot with the Riders over two full seasons. The 25-year-old Iowa product performed well in pre-season with the Stamps, going 9-of-12 passing for 173 yards and a touchdown.

Although he spent about 12 weeks running opposition playbooks, Tate feels he's maybe turned a corner.

"Personally, this has been a season I've never had in pro sports," Tate said. "I'm in the mix now. I'm getting real reps now."

This move will probably have little impact on the rest of the season. Burris hasn't missed a start since late in the 2007 season, and he doesn't take as many tough hits as he did earlier in his career.

Burris also doesn't play poorly enough to get yanked, so his backups aren't getting game experience, which Nealy feels is the most important thing to him right now.

"It's a blessing being behind him because you can sit and learn but you don't get the game action," Nealy said.

"I feel that overall it's been good for me. I've been able to learn a lot from him."

IAN.BUSBY@SUNMEDIA.CA


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