For New York Giants, Plaxico Burress Is Gone but Questions Remain
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
ALBANY, N.Y. -- More than eight months after Plaxico Burress accidentally shot himself in the leg at a Manhattan nightclub, the fallout from the incident continues for the New York Giants.
Burress is gone, with the wide receiver having been released in the offseason, and some of the team's players said the matter finally was closed in their minds when a grand jury voted last week not to indict Antonio Pierce on weapon possession charges. Pierce, the club's middle linebacker, had accompanied Burress that night last November.
But as the Giants toil on their training camp practice fields at the University at Albany, there remains no firmly established No. 1 wide receiver for Eli Manning, the quarterback just rewarded with a record-setting contract extension.
General Manager Jerry Reese said the club's wide receivers are good enough for the Giants to return to the form that made them Super Bowl champions in the 2007 season and the league's top team for most of last season. Players said they're also hopeful that's the case.
Yet as a new season approaches, the question of the whether the Giants can win big -- Super Bowl big -- without Burress remains.
"I hope so," defensive end Osi Umenyiora said. "Not much has changed since then [the Super Bowl season]. I hope we can be at that level. The Super Bowl is what our goal is. The Super Bowl is what all teams are trying to achieve. I hope we can get back to that."
For Pierce and the Giants, at least this training camp is about football, not about what is still to come in a courtroom. On Monday of last week, the day after the players reported to Albany, a Manhattan grand jury voted to indict Burress on charges stemming from the shooting but voted not to indict Pierce, who allegedly had been in possession of the gun after the shooting.
The grand jury's vote brought the Giants, at last, a measure of closure on the incident.
"The only interest that a lot of people on this team had was really with Antonio," veteran center Shaun O'Hara said. "We wanted to make sure that he was okay and everything was going to be all right with him. Once that book was closed, I think everybody pretty much put the rest of the situation off to the side and now we're just focusing on the games."
Reese disputes the notion the Burress incident singlehandedly kept the Giants from repeating as Super Bowl champions.
"If you look back, everybody is trying to blame the loss to Philadelphia [in the playoffs] on Plaxico Burress," Reese said as he watched a practice last week. "Down the stretch [in the regular season], we beat one of the best teams in the league in Carolina without Plax in the lineup. Plax was in and out of our lineup all season. Our offense, we just didn't play well against Philadelphia. . . . I think that's overstated a little bit, people saying that Burress left and you lost three of the last four games. You know, look at the facts before you say that stuff."
The Giants had a record of 11-1 after beating the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field the day after the shooting. They went 1-3 in the regular season thereafter and were ousted from the playoffs by the Eagles in an NFC semifinal at Giants Stadium.