OTTAWA - With the Ottawa Redblacks struggling to find ways to win, the team is hoping its oldest player can make a difference.
The Redblacks will turn to veteran quarterback Henry Burris Friday night as they take on the Hamilton Tiger-Cats (6-8-0) in the first of a home-and-home series.
After a disappointing 32-30 loss to the Saskatchewan Roughriders last week, the Redblacks are giving the ball back to Burris in hopes he can ignite a team that continues to search for its identity.
Redblacks dropped to 6-7-1 with the loss and are below .500 for the first time since their inaugural season in 2014.
Burris, who hadn't played since Aug. 19, replaced Trevor Harris in the fourth quarter and managed to rally his team back from a 15-point deficit. The Redblacks lost in overtime, but there was a change in dynamic once Burris took the field.
Burris was forced to sit out four games at the start of the season with an injured pinky finger, and in Harris was excellent in his absence. Harris then suffered a knee injury July 22 and the following week Burris was back in, but struggled and after three games was replaced by Harris.
The Redblacks hope Burris is back to his old self and can bring the same spark he had Friday night.
"It's his confidence, his bravado and his leadership and just the way he carries himself you can just feel it," said running back Mossis Madu. "It's the calm in his voice and his confidence it makes you feel it too.
"There's nothing new for him, he's been there, done that and somehow it trickles down to all of us."
While it would be easy to point the finger at Harris for the Redblacks struggles of late, it would be inaccurate.
Harris has been solid. In 11 games he is 242-for-329 for 3,303 yards, and his 73.6 per cent completion rate ranks him first in the league among QBs who have played ten or more games.
"I know we've said it, but we still haven't played our best football yet," said receiver Brad Sinopoli. "As long as we realize we have a real good opportunity to get hot these last four games then I think we'll be OK. Whatever happened last week you have to learn from it, you have to flush it and work for next week."
Players and coaches are quick to praise Harris, but there's no denying the intangibles Burris brings to the field.
After nearly 17 years in the CFL the 41-year-old Burris has seen just about every scenario possible and is able to roll with whatever comes his way.
"He brings a comfort level with the players," said head coach Rick Campbell. "Trevor does a great job too, but Henry's been a leader on this team for an extended amount of time and that leadership helps."
The Redblacks need any boost they can get as their next two games are against the Ticats, who trail Ottawa by one point for first in the East.
Burris, last season's Most Outstanding Player, has been patiently waiting for his opportunity to get back in the game and he plans on making the most of it.
"It was definitely tough. When you've been a part of leading this team, coming off an MOP season and getting my team to the Grey Cup ... it was definitely disappointing not to be out there," he said. "I'd be lying if I said it wasn't. (The guys in the locker room) kept me going. These guys kept my attitude up. I kept my chin held high. I wasn't going to do anything to ruffle any feathers; Trevor was doing a great job.
"I know it's a big game and everything, but if we go out and execute and do our job everything else will take care of itself…if we get back to playing our style of football we can do some good things."
Burris will need to get the job done Friday night without one of his top receivers as the Redblacks will be without Chris Williams as he suffered a torn ACL last Friday.
Khalil Paden, who was re-signed after being released last week, is a likely replacement.
Notes: DE Arnaud Gascon-Nadon is expected to be back in the lineup Friday night.