Burris: Fantuz is ready and eager to battle the Riders
Henry Burris knows full well the emotions that come with confronting an old team in a new uniform. He’s done the deed twice in his career, having left Calgary for Saskatchewan in 2000 only to return to the Stampeders in 2005.
The veteran quarterback indicated on Thursday that while Fantuz will enjoy playing against former teammates, he is excited first and foremost to simply be returning to the competition of a CFL season.
“Number one, for all of the guys who are former Riders, we’re all excited and I know that he is looking forward to getting out there,” said Burris. “Above and beyond that, he’s talked about the excitement of just getting back out playing and starting from game one, feeling healthy and ready to go out and play the way that he knows he can play. But again, when you play against good friends like he will be, he’s looking forward to doing some good things and helping us be victorious against a good Riders team.
Burris spoke of his desire to lessen the burden on his talented receiver by performing at his best under centre, and argued that the Roughriders’ loss is the Ticats’ gain.
“Regardless of what the situation is, I’m going to do whatever I can to help make his life easier while he’s out there by making sure that I make the proper reads and put the ball in places to let him make the plays that he’s capable of making,” said the quarterback. “But regardless of the situation, he’s a guy who will definitely be missed by them. Anybody who lost a guy with the calibre of Andy Fantuz on and off the field with his play-making ability would feel it, and we’re very happy to have him here.”
Despite playing an injury-shortened season a year ago, Burris indicates that his teammate has not only adjusted well physically to the demands of the new campaign, but has taken on a valuable leadership role within the locker room at the same time.
“I never thought there was a drop-off with him,” said the quarterback of Fantuz’ 2011 showing. “Definitely when a guy goes pretty much an entire season without playing, there’s got to be some rust to work off. And the fact that he had the injury definitely didn’t help things. But with him coming out here and making the plays throughout training camp and in preseason games, it doesn’t surprise me, because he’s a guy who’s definitely got the stature and the athletic ability to make those plays.
“But the area that I’ve definitely seen a lot of growth in is the leadership. From day one when he signed on the dotted line with the Ticats, you saw a lot of the guys who were here with the team like (Dave) Stala on over to Bakari Grant and Chris Williams rally around the guy. Because he has that presence around himself in the locker room and when he steps onto the field. When he’s put in a position to make plays, he’ll do whatever he can to make those plays, but he’s always a sacrificial guy who would do what he can to help other guys make plays as well. And that’s what leadership is all about.”
Burris: must be ready for the unexpected against Saskatchewan
On the topic of the Ticats’ coming opponents, Burris stated that he and his teammates must be ready for some creativity on the part of Saskatchewan coach Cory Chamblin.
“We know that he’s going to come in here and throw out a few wrinkles on us,” said the quarterback of Chamblin’s approach.
“We’ve been preparing for a lot of different things, and preparing for the unexpected. Whenever they do throw something at us that we haven’t prepared for, we’ve got to be ready to make the adjustments when we see fit. They’re going to come in here ready to play. That’s a good team over there and they’ve got a lot of good players. We’ve got to make sure that we’re on top of our game and ready to go regardless of what they do.”
Cortez: the next game is always the most important
Asked whether a quick start to the season was a must, the Ticats’ Head Coach and Director of Football Operations George Cortez dismissed the notion that Friday’s opener was inherently more important than any other game.
“It’s important to win every time you go out there,” said Cortez. “The most important game is the one that you’re getting ready to play, and this is the first one, so it’s definitely the most important game to us right now.”
Cortez: the trench war is always telling
With both teams involved in tomorrow’s contest sporting new-look lines, Cortez addressed the importance of the battle in the trenches to the outcome of the season opener. The Ticat coach stated that the balance of the contest between the lines is typically crucial, and should be again on Friday night.
“It’s always a fact that who’s ever lines cumulatively play the best, they usually win the games,” said Cortez. “Because it’s protecting the quarterback and pressuring the quarterback that make a huge difference in the game. I would say that the battle of the lines will be foremost again tomorrow.”
Cortez: first game in charge comes with the same preparation
Friday will mark Cortez’ first competitive outing as a head coach as well as his first at the helm of the Black and Gold. But if he is feeling any extra sense of motivation on that score, he certainly wasn’t letting it be known on Thursday.
“I have about the same motivation all the time, and that’s to make a first down the first time that we have the ball and to win the game,” said Cortez.
“To say that there would be extra motivation would be to say that I didn’t have enough before, and I wouldn’t say that. So far it hasn’t really felt any different because the level of preparation is about the same for me all of the time. It’ll probably feel different on the sideline tomorrow because I’ll be doing more than calling plays. But it feels about the same right now.”
Fantuz: Now the fun begins
Facing the start of a fresh CFL campaign against his former team, Andy Fantuz was quick to show his excitement for the occasion when approached by the media on Thursday.
“It’s a little bit of both,” said the receiver on the mixture of nerves and excitement he felt. “It’s mostly excitement, more just to get back on the field and start another CFL season. It’s felt like an extra-long off-season for myself, and it’ll be nice to see all of the guys before the game. But once we come back from warmups it’ll be all business and it’ll just be a football game, and I can’t wait to get out there and play with the new team. Out in front of the crowd, it’ll be electric as the first game of the season. It’s the Friday night lights, and it’s going to be a lot of fun.
“This is what we play for. We worked all month on training camp and in practice. We’ve done all of the hard labour and now it’s time to go and have some fun. So once we get out there, I’m sure I’d want to play for as many plays as possible. We want to win, and that’s the most important thing. But we’re definitely going to enjoy it along the way.”
Fantuz: ready to do whatever it takes to win
With regards to his personal expectations for Friday night, Fantuz spoke of winning as his chief concern, and his own desire to contribute in whatever way necessary toward that outcome.
“If we win, then it’s all good,” said the receiver of his aims for the season opener. “I think that you’ve got to be a team player, and that’s how you win. Whatever you’re asked to do, you’ve got to do it as well as you can. Whether I catch 10 passes or make 10 blocks, whatever it is I don’t want to have any mental mistakes. I don’t want to have any plays where my man makes the play. I think that’s the key to being successful, and then any time I get the opportunity to make a play, I want to be able to do that.”