Veteran lineman itching for CFL return

As much as Chris Burns has enjoyed acting and sports radio, there's nothing like a one-on-one showdown with a 275-pound defensive lineman.

Football remains the offensive tackle's primary focus these days. Problem is, none of the Canadian Football League's nine teams has offered the free agent any work.

Even the Ottawa Renegades, Burns's former employer, aren't interested in negotiating a contract despite the fact they have allowed a league-high 21 quarterback sacks in four games this season.

The 11-year CFL veteran said he was given a one-year offer from Ottawa general manager and coach Joe Paopao in February but the two haven't talked since.

"They made absolutely no effort to sign me until [former Renegades lineman Alexandre] Gauthier signed [with Calgary on Feb. 17]. They know I want to play," Burns told CBC Sports Online over the phone from his British Columbia home.

"I'm surprised with the struggles they've had [with sacks allowed] ... that I haven't signed a deal."

Speaking to Sports Online, Paopao said signing Burns doesn't fit within the team's budget for 2005, despite a recent change in team ownership.

"In a perfect world I'd like to play five Canadians [on the offensive line] but we're staying within our mandate as an organization," said Paopao.

"I like Chris. He's got experience and I still think he has the ability to make plays.

"Part of our problem is that we've made five different moves to our starting [offensive] line since training camp. It's a matter of getting guys healthy."

For Burns, it's a matter of being patient until teams begin to cut players or suffer injuries, said his agent Ross Gurney.

"I've talked with everyone except Saskatchewan and have had off-and-on dialogue with Winnipeg and Montreal," Gurney told Sports Online.

Two weeks ago, Montreal looked at giving Burns a workout before GM Jim Popp acquired veteran offensive lineman Dave Mudge in a trade with Winnipeg.

Gurney also has talked to Blue Bombers GM Brendan Taman "a handful of times" but the community-owned club apparently doesn't have the financial wherewithal to add Burns.

"I'm willing to get creative on how a contract is structured," said Burns, a six-foot-four-inch B.C. native. "I'm looking for the best deal out there, but obviously I have to have something in front of me.

"Joe [Paopao] never asked me what I was looking for. Nobody's asked me."

The Ottawa Sun suggested the Renegades' offer is in the $75,000 range, while Burns read another story that said he rejected a $125,000 offer and was holding out for a $150,000 contract.

"I don't know where that [$75,000 report] came from. Neither my agent nor I have said any number of what I'm looking for," said Burns, 32. "I've been making six figures for a number of years and certainly think I'm worth that."

However, Burns is earning significantly less these days.

Besides taking a real estate course, he has done work for two Vancouver sports radio stations – MOJO 730 and the Team 1040 – and dabbled in film and television.

"I did a pilot for an NBC show at the end of May," said Burns. "It's a science fiction series that sounds like it's going to get picked up. I generally get cast to play a cop, soldier or gangster. Somebody big."

In between gigs, Burns works out twice a week with noted physiotherapist Rick Celebrini. Among Celebrini's clients is Canadian basketball player Steve Nash, the NBA's most valuable player this past season.

"I'm champing at the bit to get out [on the field]," Burns said. "I'm literally in the best shape of my life. I'm 290, 292 pounds, lean, strong and flexible.

"I want to help a team win a Grey Cup."