Few would have faulted Bryan Burnham for taking some time away from the B.C. Lions this season.
The star receiver couldn’t be on the field anyway after a jarring hit from Toronto Argonauts defensive back Shaq Richardson on June 25 left him with fractured ribs and a collapsed lung.
But after Burnham spent a week in a Vancouver hospital recovering, he returned to help his teammates.
“Obviously, I would have loved to go and spend more time with my wife and our foster son, but I made a pledge to these guys,” he explained Friday.
“And I know a lot of people do decide to go home when they’re on the six game (injured list), but no – I felt like it’d be important for me to stay and continue to be a leader and just help the guys however I could.”
He spent time at the team’s training facility in Surrey, B.C., and was on the sidelines during several games. Last week, he watched as the Lions came from behind to take a 32-17 victory over the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
“Me being a vet and being out there so much, I definitely see what some others don’t,” Burnham said. “I wasn’t out there trying to coach too much because (receivers) coach (Jason) Tucker does a great job of that.
“I was just kind of trying to be a mentor and help the guys out if something went wrong, just to let them know that play’s over or move on to the next and just keep guys up, keep guys motivated, keep guys going. Just being a friend, being a teammate. And it was fun.”
Now healthy, Burnham is set to slot back into the Lions’ lineup on Saturday when B.C. (5-1) hosts the Edmonton Elks (2-5).
It will be the second meeting of the year between the two squads, coming after the Lions routed the Elks 59-15 to open the season on June 11.
That Week 1 matchup is “irrelevant” heading into Saturday’s clash, said B.C.’s head coach Rick Campbell.
“It seems like a long time ago, but also it’s a very different looking team from Edmonton,” he said. “So we talked about it for about five seconds at the beginning of the week, that that game really doesn’t have any bearing on this game.”
Coming off a bye week, the Elks will once again be without Canadian quarterback Tre Ford, who was added to the six-game injured list Friday due to a collarbone injury.
The move gives Edmonton some cost certainty, said Chris Jones, Edmonton’s head coach and general manager.
“I’m not gonna put too much in front of him for us to put him at risk,” he said. “So we’re gonna make sure that he’s completely well before we put him back out there.”
Taylor Cornelius will get the start for the Elks on Saturday.
Edmonton’s coaching staff has the “utmost confidence” in the 26-year-old Oklahoma State product, Jones said.
“He’s a good quarterback,” the coach said. “He’s done a real nice job over the last few weeks. We’ve just got to protect him, we’ve got to have a run game, we’ve got to play good defence. And then the thing he’s got to do is he’s got to take care of the football.”
Cornelius has thrown for 500 yards this season, completing 44 of 73 attempts with a touchdown and two interceptions.
Though he didn’t see action in the season opener, the QB said there’s “bad blood in the water” as the Elks return to Vancouver.
“I haven’t forgotten what they did to us Week 1,” he said. “And we’re going to try and prove it (to) ourselves this week.”
Edmonton Elks (2-5) at B.C. Lions (5-1)
Friday, B.C. Place
CHA-CHA-CHA-CHANGES: The Elks have seen ample roster rotation this season with 75 players suiting up for at least one game. B.C. has fielded just 52 athletes, below the league average of 59.
THE MANNY SHOW: Edmonton receiver Emmanuel Arceneaux is closing on a major milestone. The 34-year-old Alcorn State product needs just 69 yards to break into the league’s top 30 all-time receivers. Arceneaux has amassed 8,774 receiving yards over 147 CFL games dating back to 2009.
POCKET PROTECTORS: B.C.’s offensive line has been solid, allowing just six sacks across six games. The Lions lead the CFL in fewest sacks allowed and are on pace to equal the record-low 18 sacks given up by the 1995 Saskatchewan Roughriders.