Why Henry Burris feels he will return 'back strong' at age 41

Why Henry Burris feels he will return 'back strong' at age 41

Henry Burris cannot stop, so it's back to square one at age 41.

Anecdotal evidence is mostly what we have to go on since there is a very small sample size of pro quarterbacks fortunate enough to still be prized enough to flinging footballs into their fifth decade. The fountain-of-youth season is often followed by a time-catching-up reckoning. Burris' CFL contemporaries Damon Allen and Anthony Calvillo produced into their 40s, but each was limited to a half-season in his final CFL campaign. South of the border, there is Peyton Manning at loggerheads with the Denver Broncos over whether he is fit to play. Or, to cross sports streams, trying looking up Kobe Bryant's shooting percentage for the Lakers without cringing.

Burris maintained that a Grey Cup win against Edmonton instead of the Ottawa Redblacks' 26-20 loss would not have altered his plans. How do you quit after passing for a league-high 5,703 yards and winning the Most Outstanding Player award?

"That would be a sweet thing as far as having the John Elway-esque ending to your career," Burris said. "But I always said regardless of what our outcome was, I would always be back next year. Regardless of what the ending is, the thing that lives with you the longest is the fact you still felt you had it and you didn't continue to play. I think I can continue to work on opportunities away from football and do those things, but once you give up the game of football, you can't get it back. There's a certain style of mental and physical preparation that you have to go through in order for you to feel up to par and be accustomed to doing the things that you are doing.

"I definitely feel, one to two more years," added Burris. "Of course, right now the body is not feeling that way. It kind of feels like the entire season just jumped on me. When I woke up this morning, it was like, 'I just feel it all right now.' I definitely know I'll be back strong."

'Smash therapy'

Burris believes that he has a leg up on others who kept pushing the envelope and playing. The ever-engaging quarterback has recruited a veritable Team Hank to keep his body in football shape. The group includes Kyle Thorne, head of human performance and strength coach for all of Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group's sports properties, along with Redblacks athletic therapist Dave Wright. Outside the team, Burris is an avid yogi, works with a physiotherapist, Jethro Constant, and a registered massage therapist, Raul Guevara.

"I've talked to Damon, I've talked to Anthony, Warren Moon," Burris said. "I've talked to so many guys that have done it. What's on my side is there's so much technology, types of therapy that they didn't have available. As long as I keep myself on top of the athletic therapy world, the new best innovation to keep my body as young and fresh as possible, if there's something new, I'm going to test of it.

"One of the things Jethro Constant uses is 'smash therapy,' " the QB adds. "What that does for the rate of recovery and what he's been able to do for me is amazing. There's so many people who have I worked with who have kept my body fresh."

The Redblacks will need a succession plan in place at some point in the not too distant future. Burris has started all 38 regular-season and playoff games across their two seasons. Backup Thomas DeMarco is a free agent and generally CFL teams can't fit two starting-QB salaries under the cap.

"Henry sure looks like a guy who is not slowing down," said Redblacks head coach Rick Campbell, who is Burris' elder by four years. "He doesn't look like a 40-year-old guy to me. He was a big reason for our success this year. As long as he's still healthy, he is a viable football player."

'This one will hurt for a long time'

Age and wisdom, though, does not make a Grey Cup loss any easier to accept. The phenomenon is quite the opposite. The Redblacks, listed as a seven-point underdog started hot with touchdowns on their first two drives against Edmonton. They had a chance to reopen a two-touchdown lead in the first quarter when Burris loaded up for a home run ball to Chris Williams, who was behind coverage. Instead, the ball fluttered in the cold Winnipeg air and Edmonton cornerback Patrick Watkins made an easy interception.

"This one will hurt for a long time," Burris said. "You go through so much and try to build something special to get to the big game, Now you got to go back through the entire journey again. You're never guaranteed another opportunity. For me that means so much more because each season that comes, I'm going to get that much closer to the end and I'm not going to have any more opportunities. It definitely stings. You just go through the plays you could wish you could have back."

The Redblacks, buckling a bit under Edmonton's well-disguised pressure, never saw the end zone again, of course. The balance of their scoring came off Christopher Milo's right foot.

"Maybe I should have been more in control of my body when I made that throw," Burris said. "I've done the same thing, same type of footwork 100 times this season. It's just on the 101st time that that happened."

Authoring an Elway moment might have seem too story-bookish, but Burris is indulging in some sentiment. He and his spouse, Nicole Burris' two sons, Armand and Barron, are old enough to be playing sports and can see how their father handles setbacks.

"To be able to show Daddy kept it together, show them how to deal with it and be a good sportsman meant a lot. They said, 'Daddy, you have to win one again before you're done so we can eat Froot Loops out of it again.

"That will be a motivating factor."

Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @naitSAYger.