Burress pays hefty price, earns 2nd chance
Plaxico Burress shot himself in the thigh and his career in the
It doesn’t have to be a fatal wound.
The former Super Bowl star walked out of prison Monday after
serving nearly two years behind bars on a weapons charge. He’s
ready to put his life back together and shouldn’t be denied a
chance at redemption in the NFL, having served an extremely harsh
penalty – too harsh in my view – for carrying an unlicensed gun
into a nightclub in 2008.
Talk about a fall from grace. Nine months before the shooting,
Burress was the toast of New York after he predicted an upset over
the undefeated New England Patriots, then backed up his bravado by
hauling in the winning touchdown pass in the final minute of the
Giants’ stunning 17-14 win.
But as Michael Vick proved, Burress’ time away from the game
could turn out to be a blip in his career. He says he worked out
four times a week in that New York state prison, and he sure looked
in game shape when he emerged through a gate topped with barbed
wire in a Phillies cap, black hoodie, shorts and sneakers, pulling
a single suitcase.
Burress surely is lugging a lot more baggage than that, but look
at it a different way: Prison saved two years’ worth of wear and
tear on a soon-to-be-34-year-old body. Plus, he must have gained
some much-needed perspective on the life he was leading before that
fateful night of clubbing in Manhattan.
Seriously, which receiver would you pick from this group of
aging controversy magnets: Burress, Terrell Owens, Randy Moss or
That’s an easy one – Burress all the way.
”He’s going to be a top free agent,” predicted his agent, Drew
Rosenhaus, who leaped into his client’s arms outside the prison.
”There are going to be multiple teams interested in signing him. I
expect him to get a good contract. I expect him to absolutely be
There’s still that little matter of the lockout, of course. As
soon as it’s settled, Burress insists he’ll be ready to start
He’s certainly earned a second chance, spending longer in prison
for accidentally shooting himself than some criminals get for more
heinous acts against others.
”If Plaxico was not a high-profile professional athlete, he
would not have received the two-year sentence,” said Tim Newman,
an associate professor of sports management at York College in
Pennsylvania. ”However, that comes with the territory of being a
professional athlete. Sometimes you are treated differently than
the average person, both good and bad.”
If Burress thinks he got a raw deal, he sure didn’t show it once
he removed himself from Rosenhaus’ embrace long enough to make a
brief statement to reporters. He thanked ”God for bringing me
through one of the most trying times of my life.” He gave a
shoutout to thousands of fans for their letters, prayers and words
of encouragement. He called it a ”beautiful day” and said he
looked forward to being reunited with his wife and two children –
the youngest born while he was locked up.
Then, before driving away in a black Range Rover, he touched on
his work plans.
”As far as football is concerned, if and when everything gets
settled and when they get back on the field,” Burress said, ”I’ll
Let’s not make this guy out to be a saint. Burress had been in
trouble – on and off the field – before he made the ill-advised
choice to tuck a handgun into his waistband before a night on the
He ran afoul of the Giants and his previous team, the Pittsburgh
Steelers, when he didn’t bother showing up for practices and missed
meetings. Some thought he feigned injuries to get out of practices
he did attend. There were domestic disturbances and civil lawsuits
on his pre-shooting blotter.
Now, Burress says he’s ready to start the rest of his life –
just one tweet he sent not long after clearing the prison gate.
Calling Vick might be a good start.
No. 7 was even more reviled than Burress after Vick’s affinity
for dogfighting came out. But the Philadelphia Eagles gave him a
second chance, and Vick sure took advantage of it. This past
season, he claimed the starting job, led his team to the playoffs
and was selected to the Pro Bowl, as well as winning the Comeback
Player of the Year award.
Vick, however, was nearly 5 years younger than Burress when he
rejoined the league. The receiver can’t afford for the NFL to lose
an entire season trying to reach a new labor deal. But, assuming
there’s a settlement before Week 1 and Burress follows Vick’s
blueprint for contrition, the former Giants star will be an awfully
good investment for any team that needs a receiver.
”If Plaxico stays out of trouble both on and off the field,
does community service outreach in relation to gun violence, I do
not think it will be long before this is behind him,” Newman
Heck, despite Rosenhaus’ bluster, this just might be the right
time to get Burress on the cheap. Once he’s had a year to show what
he can do on the field, he might be in position to demand some
really big bucks.
No one could deny he’s already paid a hefty price.
National Writer Paul Newberry can be reached at
pnewberry(at)ap.org or http://twitter.com/pnewberry1963