‘Things got interesting’ with Bombers’ pitch for Lions’ all-star receiver Bryan Burnham

Photo courtesy: B.C. Lions

CFL all-star receiver Bryan Burnham entertained the idea of leaving the B.C. Lions for the defending Grey Cup champions.

After the league’s negotiation period opened on Sunday, January 31, Burnham was free to talk with any team from coast to coast. The Blue Bombers put a pitch together to try and move Burnham to central Canada.

“I wanted to at least take the time to hear what was out there. Winnipeg was one of the big ones who called — things got interesting. It’s a great feeling to have when people want you,” Burnham said.

“All the respect in the world to Winnipeg and what their franchise has done. There was a number it would take for me to stay in B.C. and a number it would take for me to leave. B.C. got to that number and nobody got to the number it would take for me to leave.”

Burnham left more money on the table to stay with the Lions for the 2021 season. It’s a familiar place as he has spent all six of his years in Canada playing in British Columbia. He was scheduled to earn $202,000 in 2020, however the season was cancelled.

“Teams have to cut money down and being one of the higher-paid non-quarterback position guys in the league, we were in a tough position because those are the contracts that really have to come down the most,” Burnham said.

“They made it a little harder than it needed to be. I had fears that it might not get done. It had gotten to the point a week ago where I thought my days in B.C. were done and I was going to be moving on.”

Burnham has built a trusted rapport with franchise quarterback Mike Reilly. When the negotiations with the Lions were “shaky” a couple weeks ago, Reilly reached out and made it known he wanted Burnham back. That assurance from QB to receiver proved to be a key in the two remaining together.

“That’s my training camp roommate, my road roommate — that’s my guy. The relationship we’ve built on the field and off the field is something I really wanted to continue,” Burnham said.

The 30-year-old pass catcher admitted negotiations with the Lions “were not fun,” though he understands that’s part of the business. He didn’t want to take any of the discussions as a personal attack on himself or feel a certain type of way. Instead, Burnham remained focused on the process of signing a new contract.

“We were at a position where there wasn’t much dialogue going on between me and B.C.,” Burnham said. “Luckily they were able to make something happen to get this done.”

The six-foot-two, 205-pound target has been named a league all-star the past three CFL seasons. Burnham had the best season of his career in 2019, making 100 receptions for 1,492 yards and eleven touchdowns with Reilly throwing him the football.

“I wanted to mess with him a little bit. I answered the phone and I had a sad look on my face and was telling him how much I enjoyed playing with him,” Burnham said

“I had to pull his strings. He got a little nervous and thought I was saying goodbye, but I was excited to tell him that I was coming back.”

Justin Dunk is a football insider, sports reporter and anchor.