(Long Island, NY) They say the number of years that a particular player can remain on the football field ranges from two to four on the average. Due to the physical nature of the game, that low figure should not come as a complete surprise.
But when you factor in behavioral issues that can shorten one’s career that has already surpassed that span, the finger of blame is squarely pointed at the one in the mirror.
Take Plaxico Burress, who went from the guy who caught the winning touchdown in the Super Bowl to the unemployment line (and possibly prison) in little over the span of a year. What should have taken place back in November finally did come to fruition when Giants general manager Jerry Reese pulled the plug on the mercurial wide receiver and released Burress.
“I am an optimist and I believe most situations can be worked out,” Reese told reporters. “We hung in there as long as we could in hopes that there could be a resolution to this situation other than the decision we made today to release Plaxico.
“It wasn’t to be, so now we have to move on,” continued Reese. “Like everybody else here, we want nothing but the best for Plaxico, and are appreciative of the contributions he made to this franchise.”
In is four seasons in New York, Burress was productive but did not exactly behave like a boy scout. What he did in previous seasons paled in comparison to this one, which culminated in the former Steeler accidentally shooting himself in the leg in a Manhattan nightclub on November 29.
The team suspended him for four games for “conduct detrimental to the team,” but his days in blue were, for all intents and purposes, done at that point. Especially with a head coach such as Tom Coughlin – who still runs a tight ship even though he has softened his stance some – bringing back Burress would have set a poor example for an organization that is widely respected throughout the sports world.
Replacing Burress’ numbers will not be easy, and that task is made even more difficult because the receiving corps was not a strong unit to begin with. During his Giant tenure, he caught 344 passes for 3,681 yards and 33 touchdowns. His best year came in 2007, when he played through an ankle injury virtually the entire way. Stepping up when it counted the most, Burress caught 11 passes in the arctic conditions in Green Bay during the NFC Championship Game, setting a team record. He then punctuated that two weeks later with the 13-yard grab from quarterback Eli Manning in the left corner of the end zone with a mere 35 ticks left on the clock to upset the previously undefeated Patriots.
Veteran Amani Toomer’s contract is up and the University of Michigan product will finish out his playing days in a different uniform. SB XLII hero David Tyree missed the entire past year with a knee injury and the rest of the wideouts have no more than three years experience at the most.
The one who gained the most playing time after Burress went away was Domenik Hixon, and he figures to play a big part in the 2009 offense. Youngsters Sinorice Moss and Mario Manningham need to make strides in order to pick up the slack while Steve Smith has justified Reese’s faith in drafting him.
The Giants will need to address the position in the NFL Draft on April 25 but do not pick until 29th. The top receiver is Michael Crabtree of Texas Tech, but he will be long gone by the time the Giants get a crack at it.
Other names being bantered as first rounders are Percy Harvin (Florida), Hakeem Nicks (Carolina), Darrius Heyward-Bey (Maryland) and Brian Robiskie (Ohio State). The former Buckeye may fall to the G-Men and would be a steal that low in the opening round.
Either way, the team is better off in more ways than one without Burress, who had his criminal trial postponed until June. He will probably avoid jail time but may face further suspension from the league.
The Giants do not need those types of distractions and anyone who looks to sign Burress has to take on some serious baggage with him. Is it worth it? That is the question that any potential suitors have to ask themselves.