Behind the smile: beware of Burris!

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 1:31 PM ET

CALGARY -- Look out for Henry Burris.

Already established as one of the most charismatic players in the Canadian Football League, this could definitely be the year that Smilin' Hank becomes the brightest star in the league.

For the first time in his eight years in the loop, Burris is the starting quarterback for the same team, with the same offence and the same receivers for a second straight year.

For that simple reason, he could certainly lead the league in passing - and more importantly, lead the Calgary Stampeders to a Grey Cup title.

In fact, betting against those two possibilities isn't a wise idea.

There are no guarantees in any pro sport, but look at what Burris did last year in his first season in Cowtown after coming from Saskatchewan.

Once he settled down and learned the new offence and the tendencies of his talented receivers, he was the hottest quarterback in the league.

He led the Stamps to four straight wins down the stretch to gain home field advantage in the playoffs and had his team in a great position to keep rolling to the West final until the entire roster practically melted down in the final 30 minutes of the semifinal with turnovers and incredibly costly gaffes.

When the 2006 regular-season starts tonight, Burris should be even more comfortable in the offence and ready to hit the ground running, unlike last year.

"You look from Peyton Manning to Troy Aikman to Ricky Ray to Warren Moon, these guys all played in the same system for a number of years and each year they became better managers in an offence," said Burris.

"Things will be slowed down from the beginning (of this year), rather than halfway through the season.

"I expect to be much better (this year)."

Granted, Burris has never won a championship game as a professional and people constantly bring that point to the table.

But don't forget he had the upstart Saskatchewan Roughriders in a glorious position to win the 2004 West final until Paul McCallum botched an easy 18-yard field goal attempt.

With a great supporting cast this year, there's a good chance that Burris will be back in the West final and add the missing piece to his resume one week later in Winnipeg.

RUMOUR MILL: Dan Orlich lost $1 million last year with the Edmonton Cracker-Cats and could lose up to $500,000 this year with the team struggling at the box office. But that hasn't soured him on buying on another sports team.

In fact, with the B.C. Lions apparently up for sale, the Cats' owner hopes to soon talk with Lion owner David Braley about a possible deal.

"Oh yeah," Orlich told the Sun from Florida last night, "That is a great team."

According to a Toronto newspaper report, Braley is hoping to sell for $10-$15 million.

While that is nearly double the $6.5 million price tag for the Calgary Stampeders last year, Orlich can afford the steep price based on some of his remarkable real estate developments in the United States.

FINISH LINES: Tom Higgins might be the politest head coach that has ever walked the planet - to the point that it can make you sick at times.

But it sure looks like he doesn't approve of Eskimo head coach Danny Maciocia's decision to axe future CFL hall of famer Joe Montford before training camp started.

"Not having Montford on the edge is a nice thing that you don't have to worry about it any longer," said Higgins at yesterday's pregame media conference at McMahon Stadium. 


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