Plaxico Burress to give New York Jets everything
Plaxico Burress had lots of time to dream about this day, even if it once seemed unlikely.
The dark moments during his 20 months in prison were overcome by thoughts of reuniting with his family and catching passes again on the football field.
He would be back, he said, and so would everything he lost with one big mistake.
Burress just needed someone to give him a second chance. The New York Jets offered the perfect opportunity.
The former Super Bowl star signed a one-year deal with the Jets on Sunday, after being released from prison recently after serving nearly two years on a gun charge.
"When something's taken away from you that you love, you know you love it more," Burress said.
"You learn that playing in this business is definitely a privilege. I definitely miss being away from the game and the guys, and being able to compete every Sunday with the best athletes in the world."
Burress, who turns 34 on August 12, caught the winning touchdown pass in the New York Giants' upset of the unbeaten New England Patriots in the 2008 Super Bowl before his career derailed after he accidentally shot himself in a New York nightclub later that year.
"I'm just grateful," Burress said. "I'm excited about the opportunity, and I'm going to give them everything I've got because they put their trust in me to be able to come in and contribute and have an impact."
The Jets are hoping Burress can revive his career the way Michael Vick did with the Philadelphia Eagles last year.
Vick missed two seasons while serving prison time for his involvement in a dog-fighting ring before returning to football in 2009.
He was eased back into things by the Eagles before taking over as the starting quarterback last year and capping a terrific, highlight-filled season by being selected as the Comeback Player of the Year.
"Pretty much where I am right now, I'm in a great place," Burress said. "I really believe that everything happens for its own reasons and has its own reason. It's definitely something that I wish that I could change, but it's over now and I put it behind me.
"It's no longer a part of my future or what I have going on in the next chapter of my life."
ESPN reported that the deal is for more than US$3 million (Dh11m)fully guaranteed - $3.017m, with the last two digits a tribute to his uniform number.
Burress was at the airport in Los Angeles on his way to a meeting with the San Francisco 49ers, but cancelled that trip when the Jets contacted him. He agreed to come back to New York, but in green and white this time, without even visiting with the Jets or speaking to Rex Ryan, the coach.
"There was no sales pitch needed," he said. "You just look at all the pieces that are in place."
He also remembered the day back in 2009, when his legal status was unclear and he was a free agent after the Giants released him. Woody Johnson, the Jets owner, and Mike Tannenbaum, the general manager, met with Burress that spring when they were in Florida for the annual NFL meetings.
"They were really the first team to support me with everything that I had going on at that time," Burress said. "And it just felt right for me to be able to come here with everything that I had going on a couple of years ago, to have those guys approach me in the way that they did I just felt I made the right decision."
There was no speech from Ryan or tour of the Jets' lavish training facility. He did not need any of that, and neither did the Jets.
"It's emotional, because we had some long days and some long nights," Burress said. "You dream about this day, being able to get back into what you love, and that time has come and it's time for me to focus on just playing football and doing it at a high level."
That is what the Jets are counting on, even though he has not played in two-and-a-half years. There will be plenty of questions - how soon can he be in football shape? Has he lost a significant amount of speed? Does he still have sure hands? Can he handle the media spotlight of being back in New York?
"I feel I'm in great shape," he said, adding that he will surely be a little rusty. "I think a lot of people are going to be surprised."
Burress pleaded guilty in August 2009 to attempted criminal possession of a weapon after accidentally shooting himself in the thigh at a Manhattan nightclub in November 2008, accepting a two-year prison term. He was released about three months early for good behaviour, but will be on parole for two years.
Published: August 2, 2011 04:00 AM