Ken Staninger has had a few interesting weeks. The sports agent represents CFL quarterbacks Ricky Ray and Henry Burris, and was involved as both made surprise moves from Alberta to Southern Ontario. Burris’s move included a pay cut, Staninger admitted, though he would not confirm reports the two-year deal is worth $300,000 per season, with a $100,000 up front. Staninger spoke to National Post reporter Matthew Scianitti from his Missoula, Mont., office Wednesday, discussing Burris’s departure from Calgary, his clients’ potential impact in Hamilton and Toronto, and the bevy of Grey Cup veterans in the East.
What did you think about Burris’s situation in Calgary?
“I think [the Stampeders] felt it was time to start trying to locate their new quarterback that can take them where they want to go, and felt maybe that Henry wasn’t that guy anymore. That is pretty obvious: You wouldn’t trade away a Grey Cup MVP if you thought he was going to do it again. From our side of it, I think Henry is a very young quarterback, young meaning he takes very good care of himself. He has not sustained very serious injuries recently, and feels [he has] maybe three or four years of very productive play left.”
Inevitably, with every athlete, the mind might be willing but the body becomes weak. How do you discuss that with your clients?
“I think you start off with [the player] believing your advice. [When Staninger represented B.C. and Calgary quarterback Dave Dickenson], it was really apparent that [Dickenson] needed to start backing off because of the concussion issue. I said, ‘Dave, I think you need to take a hard look at whether you should play anymore.’ At some point these stars … they can always have value as a backup as long as they’re willing to take a pay cut. If they can’t come to grips with that, then they need to retire. That is something that I will just put that way. With Ricky and Henry, we did not have those discussions.
“I think Henry realized that life is changing as we know it, and we need to go with the flow, and realize there is going to be a reduction in his compensation, and he needs to go and jumpstart his career and maybe prove himself again. I think he is confident that he can do that. And Ricky doesn’t seem to miss a beat. He is kind of just Mr. Steady.”
How important is next season going to be for the CFL in Southern Ontario and for both players?
“I think you have to add Anthony [Calvillo] into that mix. Now all your experience is really in the East, so your conference games are going to be really [important]. I think anytime you’re getting up in age [Ray is 32, Burris will be 37 when the 2012 season starts] and if you’re with a new club, there is pressure to win. Toronto traded for Ricky Ray to win, the same with Hamilton with Henry, and so I think in both cases these are big years for both those guys individually. But I think it is a great opportunity for the East to really showcase the high level of quarterbacking its is going to have.”
Clearly there is now a contrast between youth in the West and experience in the East …
“At some point a coach and a GM are going to have to say, ‘This our guy, and we are going to go with him, and we’re going to see if we’re right,’ and that will be true with [Drew Tate] in Calgary. He has a golden opportunity to take over the reins there. Is he good enough to do it? Who knows? Next season will tell. It is interesting, the West is kind of going with the youth movement and the East is saying we want the experienced guys to maybe push us over the hill to win a Cup again. It will be interesting to see who is right and who is wrong.”
What about the perception that these moves are short-term answers?
“What is short-term? One year? Or three? Or four? I think both Ricky and Henry, if you asked them, ‘OK, how much longer do you think they can play?’ I think both would say, ‘You know, three or four years.’ I think Toronto and Hamilton both feel they are a quarterback away from making a legitimate run to the Grey Cup, and maybe they are. I don’t know.”