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Jets' Burress thankful to be home, not in prison

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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP)

(Eds: Clarifies that Burress shot himself night after Thanksgiving 2008. With AP Photos.)By DENNIS WASZAK Jr.AP Sports Writer

Plaxico Burress has big plans all mapped out for the Thanksgiving holiday.

Some deep-fried turkey at home, a couple of visits to a few old teammates for dessert. Most of all, though, the New York Jets wide receiver just wants to be around his family.

Burress was behind bars at this time the last two years, stuck in a prison cell after making a costly mistake.

''Man, it doesn't feel good,'' Burress said Wednesday. ''I mean, knowing that you're away from your family on the holidays.''

Burress served 20 months in prison on a gun charge after accidentally shooting himself in the right thigh almost exactly three years ago in a New York nightclub. He went from being a Super Bowl star to a convicted felon with an uncertain future.

While he counted the days, Burress was apart from wife Tiffany and their children, Elijah and Giovanna - who was born while he was away. Holidays, birthdays and celebrations, Burress missed them all for the better part of two years.

''Every day was difficult,'' Burress said. ''But the Thanksgivings and the Christmases and the Easters and different things like that, and even Halloween, just not being able to be there and see the emotions and jubilation on your kids' faces and wife. It hits you a little harder. That's why every day is basically special to me.''

Burress, then with the Giants, shot himself the night after Thanksgiving on Nov. 28, 2008, when the gun he was carrying in his sweat pants started slipping down his leg and went off as he grabbed it. The next several months were filled with court appearances, shame and embarrassment before he was convicted. He served his sentence in a correctional facility in upstate New York with thoughts of returning to his family - and football - getting him through those days.

Burress was released in June. A few weeks later, he was a member of the New York Jets.

An extra-special Thanksgiving for the Burress family? No doubt about it.

''You're talking about being where I was at for the past two years and now being able to be home,'' said Burress, who has 30 catches and a team-leading six touchdowns. ''It's actually the first Thanksgiving I've had off while playing football. When I was in Pittsburgh and even when I was with the Giants, we would go in at 6 or 7 o'clock and be home before noon, so in that regard, it's being able to spend the whole day with the family and really just take it all in.''

Jets coach Rex Ryan adjusted the schedule so that the players had off to enjoy the holiday. It inadvertently caused Burress some issues earlier in the week when he missed two days of practice while doing charity work that Ryan had approved a few months ago.

Burress spent Monday handing out turkeys and hams to people in his hometown of Virginia Beach, and was back in New York - cutting short his trip to Virginia - speaking to kids at a school in Manhattan and donating computers. Thursday, though, was going to be all about family and friends for Burress.

''I'm here this year for the first time in two years, and we're just going to get together and do our thing,'' he said. ''We're all blessed and thankful. I'm just enjoying it and looking forward to frying that turkey and getting after it.''

Yep, Burress plans to go all out and deep-fry his turkey - peanut oil and all.

''I'm not an amateur,'' he said with a big smile when reminded that turkeys can explode while being fried if not properly thawed. ''I'm a professional.''

After that, it's off to see former Giants teammates David Tyree and Brandon Jacobs.

''I'll slide by the Tyrees' (house) and see if I can get me some sweet potato pie and then probably slide by the Jacobs' and see if I can get some banana pudding,'' he said, smiling like a kid. ''It's that kind of deal. I plan on eating at home, and then going by everybody else's house to taste the desserts, sample the desserts.''

Burress is excited, and for good reason. After the last two years, he's got plenty to be happy about.

''It's a special time,'' Burress said, ''where you've just got to kind of all get together and embrace that time.''

Notes: Ryan said backup QB Mark Brunell again took ''a couple'' of snaps with the first-team offense, as he has all week in a motivational ploy to fire up starter Mark Sanchez. ''He tried to cheap-shot me today on a drill,'' Ryan joked of Sanchez. ''It felt like a fly hitting me, so I wasn't that concerned with it.'' Ryan added he can't envision ever benching Sanchez. ''If we did put him out or pull him, would it be for a series or whatever? Maybe so,'' he said. ''But I don't see myself ever taking Mark out of the game.''... Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine took the blame for the play call when the Jets blitzed Tim Tebow, who scored the go-ahead touchdown on a 20-yard run in the team's 17-13 loss at Denver last Thursday. ''I'll shoulder that responsibility,'' he said. ''To me, if I could take it back, I would, obviously given the result.''

Tagged: Broncos, Giants, Jets, Plaxico Burress, Mark Brunell, Mark Sanchez, Tim Tebow

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