(Long Island, N.Y.) Even the most talented athletes have to shake the rust off at times. In the case of Plaxico Burress, nearly two years without football was a hurdle he needed to overcome. Besides that, the labor issues caused him to sit around even longer once he was released from prison.
But the talented wide receiver seems to be heating up at just the right time and made a huge impact last Sunday with three touchdown receptions. “We’ve been working so hard at it in practice,” he said following the New York Jets 27-21 win over the San Diego Chargers. “I was just being patient. Schotty (offensive coordinator Brian Schotenheimer) stuck with me and was still calling the plays. Just working hard in practice and seeing the results in practice. I said, ‘There is going to come a time in the game where these things are going to click,’ and today we just had a great day.”
Frustration had been setting in for the former Giant and he had publicly called for more looks to come his way. But his head coach knows that he is a team player. “Obviously he wants to catch passes and everything else,” Rex Ryan said. “But last week he complained when he caught one ball, ‘With that coverage, maybe we should have thrown it to somebody else.’ I don’t think that I’ve ever heard that. He’s a good teammate. He knew his time would come. It’s not his first rodeo.”
The 34-year-old is playing in his tenth NFL season after being drafted out of Michigan State by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2000. Even with having to sit out two full years, Burress has some pretty impressive career statistics. 500 receptions, over 8,000 yards and 60 touchdowns are the type of numbers that go-to receivers bring to the table and are exceptional for the number two role he is playing on the Jets, who employ Santonio Holmes as the focus coming off the line of scrimmage. But the Jets offense is made up of many moving parts and the more weapons that Mark Sanchez has at his disposal, the better things go.
“We were waiting for a breakout game like this (from Burress) and it all kind of clicked, but it doesn’t happen without Dustin (Keller) occupying defenders, without Dustin making big catches, without JK (Jeremy Kerley) converting on third down, giving us more chances to make plays, and then Santonio (Holmes), not his biggest day numbers-wise, but an awesome job converting on a couple of things,” said the third-year quarterback.
With a bye this coming week, the Jets have some extra time to continue working on the chemistry that the wide receiving crew and Sanchez enjoyed against the Chargers. Not only is Burress getting acclimated, but the rookie Kerley is as well. Then you also factor in the failed Derrick Mason experiment, and this is a unit that needed some time to get on the same page.
That appears to be the case now and if Burress can continue to harness some of his past, scoring points will not be a consideration of the Jets.