Henry Burris didn’t think much of it when he sent out a tweet, then another, then another on Sunday.
The message: “You can’t take the leadership of a team away and expect the same results.”
The fallout: A Twitter firestorm with Redblacks fans and maybe some of the team’s players reading plenty into what the 42-year-old quarterback who led his team to a Grey Cup win in 2016 had to say.
And, on Monday, Burris showed up at practice, the first one he has been to this year.
Redblacks GM Marcel Desjardins talked to reporters at the beginning of practice: “I’m not even going to comment on it. What’s the point? What’s there to say? It’s not factual. We have a lot of leaders on this team, starting with Trevor (Harris), SirVincent (Rogers), (Brad) Sinopoli, (Greg) Ellingson, Pat Lavoie, Jon Gott — you can go on and on and on.
“I’m sure I’ll see (Burris) and we’ll have a discussion over it and we’ll go from there.”
Give Burris credit for showing up and chatting up his former teammates.
“I know how Twitter can be,” Burris said. “Everybody thought I was calling out leadership. This is going to be a very good team, but to hold them to the standard of what we had last year is unfair. There are so many new faces on this team, give them a chance to grow. Change in the locker room brings change on the field.
“They’re close to getting over the hump. There are probably some who don’t really know me that probably thought I was taking shots at this team, maybe they took it the wrong way. But the guys that know me know I couldn’t, (that’s not what I meant).”
Several of Burris’ former teammates came to the sideline to say hello. Defensive back Antoine Pruneau stormed over and jokingly yelled, “That’s bulls—t.” Later, Pruneau laughed when asked who would win a fight between him and Burris.
“Me, he’s 42. It would be a good fight, he’s pretty sneaky. DBs are hyenas, we attack in bunches and we attack from the back. We’d all go after him, he wouldn’t have a chance. You know receivers, they don’t want to get involved, they avoid that kind of stuff. Somebody’s just got to distract the O-linemen and we’re good.”
Burris’ former teammates weren’t getting caught up in the fuss after Monday’s practice. They’re more concerned with finding a way to win football games — with just a win and a tie in seven games so far this season.
“I think we have good leadership,” Rogers said. “Like he said, we lost some good leaders as well. It’s our job and it’s our team to make work for us. That’s what we’re out here fighting trying to do.”
“I don’t worry about anything outside of the locker room,” defensive back Jerrell Gavins said. “As far as the leadership goes, I think we have the leadership, it’s building. Like (Burris) said, we’re growing into the leadership. Dudes just can’t walk around yelling.”
“I was a little bit (surprised), that I didn’t hear it from him before he put it on the Internet,” Pruneau said. “He’s a guy who’s got an opinion, people respect him. He was verbal with us in the locker room so I’m not surprised he’s verbal outside of it. He cares for the Ottawa Redblacks. I don’t think (leadership) is a big issue, but you can always have more leadership.”
It’s a fact there are plenty of newcomers in the starting lineup. Ten of the 24 players who started on offence and defence in last year’s 39-33 overtime win over the Calgary Stampeders in the Grey Cup are no longer with the team, two others are injured and a number of backups have also left.
“Henry’s a friend of mine, he’ll always be a friend,” Redblacks coach Rick Campbell said. “Sometimes when you read something, it might be different than what the person meant. But I don’t agree we’re lacking leadership or playmakers. I think we have the makings of a good team, we just have to show it.”
Burris said he believes in the team’s starting quarterback, Harris.
“We talked yesterday, I had a good talk with him,” Burris said. “I told him to keep on slinging it. I told him he’s doing great out there. It’s just the little things, in the fourth quarter they have to pull together. It’s something teams go through.”
Desjardins added there has been no thought given to a quarterback change.
“It’s not even a consideration,” he said.
The GM said it’s not lack of leadership that’s the problem: “You know why we’re where we’re at? Because we have 13 turnovers, that’s why we’re where we’re at. We have the players here. We have a good offence. Our defence is evolving. We lead the league in turnovers, take half of those away and we probably have a better record. That’s what it comes down to is execution, protecting the ball, period.”
GOOD NEWS ON INJURY FRONT
The Ottawa Redblacks got a bit banged up in Friday’s 33-30 loss to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
But it looks like the new injuries aren’t as bad as first feared. Plus, receiver Kenny Shaw, who practised on Monday, could be ready to play as early as Thursday night at home against Edmonton.
“There’s an outside chance (Shaw will play), we’ll see how it goes,” Redblacks GM Marcel Desjardins said.
As for other injuries, coach Rick Campbell said: “(Defensive end Arnaud Gascon-Nadon, leg) is looking like he’s got a shot (to play). It doesn’t seem to be overly serious.
“(Running back William Powell), I’m not as hopeful for him. At the same time, he’s way better today than we thought he was going to be. I know he’s going to be back sooner rather than later, I know we’ve had this talk about him before. It’s not a serious injury. We haven’t written him off yet. It’s a different issue than he had before, it’s just a strain he’s working on.
“(Defensive back Adam Berger), he’s good, he’s all right. (Jake) Silas is the biggest question mark. I was assuming he was going to be out and today he was way better than we thought. So we’ll see on that one, too.”
TEAMS CONTACTED BURRIS
CFL teams asked Henry Burris if he was interested in playing again. But, no, he’s not coming back — to play in Ottawa or anywhere.
The 42-year-old quarterback, who stepped away after 17 CFL seasons in January, is liking football retirement. “I’ve signed the paper, I am done,” he said Monday. “I’m enjoying being a father. I’m a hockey dad. If I do anything with football, I’m starting up my camps next spring.
“There were a couple of team inquiring, but there’s never been a thought about coming back. I told them I was done. I’m a Redblack for life. This is the only team I would ever think about playing for. This is where home is. This is the only place I would ever think about.
“Jon Gott would beat me up if I thought about playing with another team, SirV (SirVincent Rogers) wouldn’t like it either.”
Original article written by Tim Baines can be found here.