NEW YORK (WFAN/AP) — Plaxico Burress walked into the Giants’ training facility a few weeks ago and saw a familiar face — himself.
There he was, in a larger-than-life picture hanging on a wall, making the catch that beat the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl in 2008. It was a great moment for Burress, whose Giants career was over and his NFL future in doubt less than a year later.
“There’s no anger toward anybody over there,” said the Jets wide receiver, now on the other side of the New York-New Jersey-area rivalry. “Everything that happened to me, I brought it upon myself.”
The fines by the team. The disagreements with coach Tom Coughlin. His release in April 2009. The 20-month prison sentence he served for accidentally shooting himself in a Manhattan nightclub.
Some fans and media believed the Giants had a good chance of going back to the Super Bowl before that incident. They finished 12-4, but lost to Philadelphia in the divisional round of the playoffs.
“We had a really good team, there’s no doubt about it,” he said. “We definitely had some special players. We had a good thing going. It’s unfortunate that everything happened the way that it did.
“I’ve moved on.”
After he was released and looking to resume his playing career, he visited Coughlin, Giants co-owners John Mara and Steve Tisch and general manager Jerry Reese. It wasn’t so much to become a member of the Giants again, but to put his mind and conscience at peace.
“I went back more to have some closure to the situation,” Burress said Wednesday. “It was good to see (them) and be able to have an opportunity to really sit down face-to-face with them for the first time, and just tell them how much I appreciated them bringing me in and allowing my game to flourish and put me in a situation where I could have some success.
“Everything went well. It was a great meeting. Business is business, and now I’m over here.”
No longer in blue, Burress is catching passes in green these days – still wearing that familiar No. 17 – and will play his former team Saturday night.
“There’s not any extra added incentive or juice or whatever you want to call it,” he said. “It’s a preseason game. I have a lot of work to do personally, as far as me getting better and contributing to this football team.”
That doesn’t mean Burress isn’t excited to see some of his friends again, players who visited him while he was in prison and shared some of his greatest moments on the field.
“It’s going to be fun, man,” Burress said. “I’m still in contact with a lot of those guys. We definitely did something special.”
Giants quarterback Eli Manning didn’t visit Burress in jail, but called him a few weeks after he was released.
“He was a great teammate for the Giants,” Manning said. “He had a great run. Things happened and, honestly, he is with the Jets now and playing well and I am happy for him and look forward to seeing him. I haven’t seen him in a long time.”
The Giants saw a familiar sight in Burress’ Jets debut Sunday night when he made a terrific over-the-shoulder touchdown catch in New York’s preseason win over Cincinnati.
“I really do think Plaxico, definitely with his first outing, is making the best of his situation and I’m happy for him,” Giants defensive end Justin Tuck said. “He deserves every attribute and every good thing that is coming his way now.”
But that doesn’t mean Plax will get any gimmes from his former teammate.
“I’m sure he’s going to try to make a splash,” said Tuck, “and we’re going to try to make sure he doesn’t.”
Burress also met with the Steelers during free agency, and could have gone back to the team his started his career with. Instead, he chose to join Rex Ryan’s Jets without even making a visit.
“Personally, I just think I needed a fresh start,” he said. “If I wanted to go somewhere and get more money, I could’ve went to a couple more places and signed a two- or three-year deal, different things like that. I just wanted to put myself in a situation to go somewhere fresh and have an opportunity to play for a great organization and for a great head coach in Rex and a great team.
“I feel that I’m in the right place.”
Burress mentioned Ryan’s quest for a Super Bowl and how that appealed to him, calling the coach’s approach “contagious.”
“I feel I’m at home,” he said. “I made the right decision and I’m happy I’m just playing football.”
After being slowed by a sprained ankle to start training camp with his new team, Burress completed his NFL comeback with his three-catch performance against the Bengals. He had a sore lower back Wednesday, but fully practiced and should be out there with the Jets’ starting offense into the third quarter.
Despite Burress downplaying the significance of the game, his former teammates know better.
“Going up against him, all of us are competitors,” Tuck said, “and I’m sure he is going to try to make a splash and we’re going to try to make sure he doesn’t.”
Burress’ new teammates also know this game isn’t just any other – even if it’s only preseason.
“Well, he’s excited,” quarterback Mark Sanchez said. “But, he’s a pro and he’s done this for so long that he won’t have any distractions.”
Ryan wondered how the crowd at MetLife Stadium – it’s a Giants home game – will respond when Burress takes the field or makes a play.
“I’m really not sure, and I’m really not too concerned about it,” Burress said. “I’m going to go out and have fun. I’m doing this with a smile on my face with a new attitude.”
Notes: After Tuck told reporters the teams’ new playing home will always be known as Giants Stadium, Jets WR Santonio Holmes disagreed. “It’s the Meadowlands,” he said. “It’s the home of the New York Jets. That’s all I’ll say about that.” … Sanchez wore an FDNY T-shirt to promote a charity event that will benefit the NY Police & Fire Widows & Children’s Benefit Fund – http://www.answerthecall.org – for families affected by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The shirts, created by Muze Clothing, can be purchased through Sanchez’s Facebook page. Sanchez’s father, Nick, is a firefighter in California.
What’s your prediction for Jets-Giants, Round 1? Sound off in the comments below…
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