Plaxico Burress. Since his name has come up repeatedly the past couple of days, and since there is a small segment of New York Giants fans who adamantly want Burress back in 2011, let's have this out now and get it over with.
Let me be clear where I stand on Burress potentially returning to the Giants, just in case you missed my comments on Tuesday. There is NO WAY I want to see Plaxico Burress back in a Giants uniform. Ever. No way. No circumstance under which I want to see it happen. You can try, but you stand absolutely no chance of convincing me that bringing Burress back to the New York Giants is a good idea. Nada. Zip. Zero.
Wax nostalgic all you want about the kind of player Burress used to be. And he was a terrific player. You can wish you could turn the clock back to 2007, but you can't. Just like I can't turn the clock back to the days before my beard started to go gray and my hair started to fall out.
Let's start with this. Burress is scheduled to become a free man this June after spending two years in prison following his self-inflicted gunshot wound. When NFL training camps roll around in August Burress will be a 34-year-old wide receiver who has not played football in nearly three full years.
You are absolutely kidding yourself if you think the Burress who shows up in an NFL training camp in August (and, yes, he will show up in someone's camp because someone will give him an opportunity) will be the same dominant player we remember from the 2007 Super Bowl team. That is almost certainly not going to happen.
I did a little research into wide receivers and from my brief study it seems that the age 34 season is a dividing line for players at that position. From what I saw there are very few receivers -- Jerry Rice, Terrell Owens and a handful of others -- who have been dominant players at any point after the age of 34. What makes you think that after 21/2 seasons away from the game Burress would be one of those exceptions?
Burress might come out of prison a better person, and I think we can all agree that we hope that would be the case. But to come out of prison after this amount of time as the same player he was in 2007 is a completely unrealistic expectation.
Some of you have pointed to Michael Vick as an example of a player coming back from prison and resuming his career in dominant fashion. True that Vick and Burress have prison in common, but they are not the same. Vick resumed his career at the age of 29, still in the prime of his athletic years. Even with that, remember that it has taken him into his second season back before flashing the skills and explosiveness he was previously known for. Burress will be 34, beyond his peak athletic years. Without having gone through football training for nearly three years how can you expect him to simply pick up where he was? If Vick, in his prime athletic years, could not then how could Burress do it?
What about whether or not the Giants actually 'need' Burress. OK, they have not won a Super Bowl since he put a bullet in his leg. Even Tuesday, though, we talked about the numbers when it comes to Giants wide receivers.
Hakeem Nicks (79 catches in 13 games this year, more than Burress ever had in a single season as a Giant), Steve Smith, Mario Manningham, Domenik Hixon, Ramses Barden, Victor Cruz, Derek Hagan. Shoot, throw Michael Clayton and Devin Thomas, who a lot of you seem to be clamoring for, into the mix. That's nine guys already. If the Giants were lacking for talent at the wide receiver position, maybe you would have a shot at convincing me to take this gamble. They are oozing talent there, though. Overflowing to the point where, if all of these guys are healthy a bunch of them will wind up on other NFL rosters. There is no need. Zero.
Let's also remember one other thing. Plax was actually only adequate in 2008 before shooting himself. He caught 35 balls in nine games, but 10 of those came in the first game of the season. Twenty-five catches in eight games for an average of 13 yards per catch are Derek Hagan numbers. OK, but nothing special.
Besides which, why would you do this to Tom Coughlin? Or Eli Manning? Maybe Burress is a better person and maybe he will emerge as a model citizen who shows up on time, practices hard and is a great teammate. Then again, maybe he won't. Maybe he will still be Plax, the guy who marches to the beat of his own drummer and does pretty much what he wants when he wants. Is it really fair to Coughlin, who is trying to right a team that has missed the playoffs the last two years, to ask him to deal with what will inevitably be a constant Burress sideshow? Is he really worth the hassle and headlines if he is most likely just a bit player? I think not.
One more thing. Why do those of you who want Burress back really want to do this to yourselves? Burress took a bullet to what could have been a second consecutive Super Bowl season in 2008? I don't understand why some see him as a savior, or even are simply willing to trust him to be part of the Giants again. We can't go back to the past, gang. Let's just go forward.
I wish Plax well, I really do. I hope he finds a team willing to take a chance on him and I hope he finds some measure of success for a season or two. I just hope it isn't with the Giants.