The Ottawa Redblacks' insurance policy may pay off in a big way. Their offseason signing of quarterback Trevor Harris now looks even better thanks to Wednesday's news that starter Henry Burris has been placed on the six-game injured list. That's following the injury Burris sustained to the little finger of his throwing hand in Saturday's win over Edmonton, which was initially described by head coach Rick Campbell as "not serious" (although it did require further evaluation). Here are the details of Wednesday's move, from TSN 1200's A.J. Jakubec:
Hearing a 4-6 week timeline on Burris. If healthy REDBLACKS can pull him off the 6-game injured list, but salary would count in full on cap.— AJ Jakubec (@AJonSports) June 29, 2016
So, this offence is Harris' to run for at least the time being. Given the incredible numbers he put up in relief of Burris Saturday (17 completions on 19 attempts, 89.5 per cent accuracy, 292 passing yards and three passing touchdowns), that doesn't seem all that dire for Ottawa, but it does make the addition of Harris look even better than it already did at first. GM Marcel Desjardins' stated plan of bringing in Harris as a long-term successor for Burris was potentially smart, but also carried the chance of a quarterback controversy dragging both down, and some wondered why the team would go out and sign another high-profile quarterback when they had the reigning CFL Most Outstanding Player who didn't miss a game last year. Quarterback injuries and dropoffs in play do happen, though, and the thought here was that Ottawa was probably right to prepare (especially considering that Burris is 41), even if it risked controversy. Now that Burris has actually gone down, the move looks even better, as the Redblacks can put in an experienced starter and a proven player instead of a backup with little CFL experience.
The big question is what happens once Burris is ready to return, though. The initial plan for this season was that he would continue as Ottawa's starter, with Harris there to watch and learn and prepare to take over next year. That timetable might be escalated now, especially if Harris is dominant while Burris is out. It's awfully hard to go away from the reigning MOP, but it has happened before (in particular, 2007 MOP Kerry Joseph was traded before the next season), and while Burris was dominant last year (he had career highs with 5,703 yards and a 70.9 per cent completion percentage, and tossed 26 touchdowns against 13 interceptions), there are some who wonder if he can maintain that at 41. He was good Saturday before getting hurt, completing 23 of 31 passes (74.2 per cent) for 251 yards with a touchdown and an interception, and he may well get his old job back once he's healthy, but that may depend on how Harris does. If Harris lights the world on fire during his stint at the helm, it may be challenging for the Redblacks to demote him, even in favour of the reigning MOP.
For now, though, you can bet Ottawa's happy they went and signed Harris. A potential future quarterback controversy is a small price to pay for decent production with your starter out. Quarterback injuries have been a big storyline in the CFL in recent years, and many teams haven't been able to replace their starters' production, leading to offensive downturns and tailspins. With Harris, the Redblacks look likely to get at least solid production without Burris, and they might get more than that. That makes the deal to bring him in look even more vital in retrospect than it did at first.