HAMILTON — The Hamilton Tiger-Cats appear to have brought the right attitude to training as they look to rebound on the road this week.
Head Coach George Cortez spoke to the gathered media following Tuesday’s practice and indicated that he was pleased with the intensity and focus his team demonstrated in their first session of the week.
“I thought we had a pretty good energy level today,” said Cortez. “I was certainly happy with the attention and the energy. I think they understand that we’re in a position where we need to win this game to keep our playoff possibilities alive.”
It is not – strictly speaking – a must-win game on Saturday, but Cortez suggested that his players are well aware of their urgent need for a win.
“It’s about as close as it could be when it’s not,” remarked the coach when asked whether Calgary represented a must-win scenario.
“Both of the other teams (Toronto and Edmonton) play before us, come to think of it. There are still two scenarios there that would be good for us, but they both involve us winning.”
“I’m looking forward to going back to the place that got me started in this league. I have a lot of great memories there and I still have a lot of friends on the team. They’re my friends before and after the game, but during the game, we’re out there trying to win.”
– Ticats QB Henry Burris
Quarterback Henry Burris admitted in the wake of the Ticats last game against the Stampeders that he had allowed emotions get the better of him while playing against his former team.
Cortez argued that his quarterback must keep himself within the context of the game at hand on Saturday in order to succeed in Calgary.
“You always have to be aware of the fact that those things could be involved,” admitted the coach of the emotions surrounding Burris’ return. “But you also have to understand that you have to play within the game. You can’t do more than what’s there for you to do.”
“They’re going to offer some opportunities in some coverages that are not really what we would like to do. But you can’t force things to happen most of the time.”
Saturday brings with it another meeting for Cortez with a number of coaches and players that he spent years working with.
The Ticats coach has experienced a return to Calgary once before – travelling there as the Offensive Line Coach for the Saskatchewan Roughriders in 2006 – and indicates that he will have no problem competing against close friends.
“When you coach against people who you’ve worked with – which has been the case with me and a lot of guys at different teams – it’s like playing your brother in the back yard,” said Cortez. “They’re your brother, but you still want to beat them badly.”
“I lived in Calgary for a long time, but it’s us against them now.”
As for Burris, he will enjoy his first competitive return to Calgary – where he played for nine years and claimed two Grey Cups – on Saturday.
The Ticat quarterback indicated that while he’s excited to play in front of the Stampeder faithful once again, his attention will solely be on the business of winning once Saturday’s game gets underway.
“I’m looking forward to going back to the place that got me started in this league,” said Burris. “I have a lot of great memories there and I still have a lot of friends on the team.”
“They’re my friends before and after the game, but during the game, we’re out there trying to win.”
Burris was unsure of the reception that he’ll be given in the city his family still calls home, but suggested on Tuesday that the presence of his friends and family is all that will matter.
“I know that my family and friends will be there, and honestly, that’s what counts,” said the quarterback.
“Of course, all that you want is to be respected for everything that you’ve done there. We went through a lot of great experiences.” “But I’m a Hamilton Tiger-Cat, and I expect that once we step on the field, they’ll be against us, which is the way it should happen.”
Burris hoped on Tuesday that the experience of playing the Stampeders earlier this season will help him to keep his emotions in check on Saturday.
“It just comes down to finally getting over that hurdle and dealing with it,” said the quarterback of the psychological challenge presented by Calgary.
“Going back home, there will be some emotions involved and I’ll be pumped up and ready to go. But when you experience things, you learn from those experiences and you’re able to respond better the next time.”
Burris’ return to Calgary will be a focal point of media attention all week, but the quarterback suggested on Tuesday that he and his team must not let that sideshow detract from the crucial task ahead of them.
“There’s so much going on within this team that we have to get it together,” said Burris. “I have a million other things to worry about in terms of game planning and making sure that we’re paying attention to detail and that we’re ready to play and execute.”
The Ticat quarterback indicated that his team should not lack for motivation as it faces elimination, with only three games remaining in the CFL schedule.
“We understand the ramifications,” said Burris of Saturday’s importance. “We have no more opportunities to lose.”
“So, you’ve got to expect guys to bring their best in times of adversity. This is truly the time where teams and individual players are judged on what type of character they have. You don’t want to be in this situation, but you do want to see what type of team we have here.”
“I feel like we have a bunch of resilient guys in this locker room.”