Burns thinks his days as 'Gade over

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 7:15 AM ET

The writing on the wall is not yet definitive, but what Chris Burns can see tells him it's time to hire an agent again.

An original Renegade entering his 12th CFL season, the non-import offensive lineman wants to return to Ottawa in 2005. He's just not so sure Ottawa wants him.

Eligible to become a free agent Feb. 15, Burns hasn't heard a word from the team since Joe Paopao was re-hired as coach and GM 11 days ago. He realizes the contracts of 20 of his teammates from last season are also up, and that Paopao is busy trying to hire a coaching staff and scouts, as well. But he has also read the names pinpointed by Paopao as priorities -- and that the team is poised to announce some signings this week -- and he admits it all has him doubting his future here.

"I assume that if I was a priority, they would have talked to me by now," Burns said yesterday from his home town of Vancouver. "Nobody has mentioned anything to me since the season ended.

"It's frustrating. I'd like to think I'm somebody they'd want back. I'm not panicking, I'm not pissed off or anything. I'm just in limbo.

"It's frustrating to be in limbo."

STRUGGLED IN 2004

Burns struggled in 2004. He started the season at right tackle, but moved to left tackle as the chief protection for the quarterback's blindside when the need arose. That experiment didn't last long, however, and Burns bounced back to his original post on a line that never did get in sync again after the first few weeks of the season and wound up allowing the most number of sacks in the league.

Burns is one of four Ottawa O-linemen in need of a new contract. Val St. Germain, Alexandre Gauthier and Mike Sutherland are the others. St. Germain is a priority of Paopao's, and Gauthier, a former first overall pick who became a starter last season, is just 28 and still has upside.

Paopao has said he expects to re-sign no more than 10 or 11 of his 21 players who can test the waters if they're not under contract by the middle of next month, and he has made it clear he also wants to bring back Canadians Mike Vilimek and Kelly Wiltshire. Non-import D-linemen Roger Dunbrack and Tim Fleiszer are also likely to get offers, as are Canadian DBs Shawn Gallant and Donnie Ruiz -- if they are healthy enough after suffering serious injuries in 2004.

FREE AGENCY UP NEXT

Burns, 32, does have experience teams cherish, especially in their Canadian linemen. But with the status also comes a higher salary level.

"At this point, I have to assume I'll become a free agent Feb. 15," said Burns, who plans to hire an agent this week after representing himself the past few years. "I'll see what the interest is."


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