I know that there is a small, but vociferous, segment of members here at BBV who hoped desperately that the New York Giants and Plaxico Burress would find a way to patch up their relationship and get Plax back in a Giants' uniform.
I have tried to be open-minded about that, though realistically I have long held the belief that the Giants and Plax would eventually go their separate ways. That, of course, became reality Friday when the Giants released the troubled wide receiver.
It is my feeling that this was inevitable. Argue about the timing all you want, but even without the legal difficulties this was never going to work unless Burress was completely willing to acquiesce to the team-first ways of the organization, specifically coach Tom Coughlin.
Both Mike Garafolo and Ralph Vacchiano, the best Giants' beat writers in the business, are reporting that Burress had simply made it obvious to the Giants that he was not going to do that.
Here is how Vacchiano put it.
According to two people familiar with the team’s thinking, it became increasingly clear to the Giants in the past few weeks that things just weren’t going right at all.
A combination of Burress’ attitude, his agents’ actions, and what had become an increasingly nasty fight over his money led to today’s shocking decision, according to those sources.
“Jerry has said all along that if everything works out and Plax demonstrates he wants to be here with a desire to be part of this thing, (then) yes, we want him back,” said one of the sources. “Well, the fact is that we’ve been given no reason to think things will be any different in the future than they have been in the past.”
The last straw, apparently, was the arbitration hearing on Wednesday at the University of Pennsylvania where representatives from the NFL Players Association began the fight to recoup some of Burress’ lost money. The hearing was over a $1 million payment the Giants withheld from Burress after he shot himself on Nov. 29, and included arguments about future bonuses and escalators which the Giants argued Burress had forfeited due to his actions.
The Giants, according to several team and league sources, made several attempts to settle that grievance and possibly even settle the second grievance - - over his four-week suspension without pay and fine of one week’s salary - - which is scheduled to be heard by an arbitrator in June. But Burress and his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, have rejected all settlement attempts.
“Ultimately, Plax’s attitude is: I don’t owe them, they owe me,” one source said.
The Giants had begun to sense that attitude - - and lack of remorse - - almost from the moment they learned that Burress had shot himself in the thigh on Nov. 29. He wasn’t immediately forthcoming with them on his condition and details of the incident. And he didn’t exactly express what team officials believed was a sincere sorrow for what happened when he finally met with him a week later to announce his suspension from the team.
Burress, 31, then essentially disappeared and only maintained sporadic contact with the team at the beginning of the offseason - - which has been normal for him since he signed with the team on March 17, 2005. But the tranquility was disrupted in February when the Giants learned of an e-mail Rosenhaus sent to each of the other 31 NFL teams informing them that Burress could be available in a trade.
The Giants interpreted that as a sign that “Plax does not want to be here,” one source said. The source added “That sentiment … has been expressed consistently in the ensuing months.”
Here is the way Garafolo phrased a similar thought.
For months, the Giants had insisted they would welcome Plaxico Burress back if his legal situation worked out in his favor. So why today, with his legal issues still up in the air, did they pull the rug out from under him by releasing him?
The answer, according to someone familiar with the Giants' thinking, is Burress pushed back in his requests for a trade and in his lack of flexibility in a recent contract squabble.
The person familiar with the team's thinking, who requested anonymity because the Giants didn't give a reason for their cutting Burress in their press release, said the wide receiver's trade request through his agent Drew Rosenhaus was the most public sign of his desire not to play for the team anymore. The Giants were livid when Rosenhaus sent the e-mail to the entire league because the team had not granted permission for Burress or Rosenhaus to seek a trade.
The whole issue has reminded of what Yahoo! Sports columnist Jason Cole, co-author of Burress' book, 'Giant: The Road to the Super Bowl,' told me about Burress when I spoke with him last December.
"His one great fault is that he does not appreciate and does not give in to authority. ... He doesn't like the rules and he is willing to rebel against them."
The Giants are apparently convinced that has not, and will not, change for Burress.
So, now the Giants move on. I'm OK with it. In fact, maybe more than OK. Actually, I think I feel like today is a good day for the Giants, and for their fans.
Today is the day we put this sad chapter of Giants' history behind us for good. We no longer have to worry about what will happen with Plaxico. We no longer have to worry that, even if he did come back, he might blow up another promising season like he did 2008. We no longer have to worry that the Giants would take Plax back, and take a giant step toward becoming like the Bengals or other franchises who sell out to talent and forget about character.
Today we begin looking ahead to what will still be a bright future for the Giants, and will probably be brighter without this whole mess to worry about.
We know the Giants have a championship caliber defense. We know they are a stud wide receiver short of having a championship caliber offense.
Well, you can be sure General Manager Jerry Reese knows this, too. And Reese, we know, is one of the best GMs in the business and one of the sharpest judges of talent around.
The season does not begin tomorrow, it is several months away. Rest assured that Reese will upgrade the position either by trade for a player like Braylon Edwards of Cleveland, the draft, or both.
No matter which side of the Plaxico debate you were on, I think you still have to realize that the future is bright for this team.
As always, In Reese We Trust.
And, we will always have this moment.