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News » How did Plaxico fall so far, so fast?

How did Plaxico fall so far, so fast?

How did Plaxico fall so far, so fast?
Plaxico Burress has been to the mountaintop.

He must be afraid of heights. Because ever since reaching the summit with his Super Bowl-winning TD catch in February, his every move has seemed dedicated to making sure he never gets back there again.

That dull thud — or muffled bang — we heard Friday night was Burress completing his freefall like a bungee jumper with too much cord.


The latest:

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  • Burress' troubled timeline

In February he was ticketed for Canton. Now he could be ticketed for Rikers.

Illegal possession of a firearm in New York City carries a mandatory three-and-half-year jail sentence. If by "illegal" New York means unpermitted and concealed and by "mandatory" New York means mandatory, Burress might soon find himself longing for the Tom Coughlin practices he has so resolutely avoided.

To understand how far Burress has fallen, one needs to fully grasp the heights he scaled last winter.

While his Super Bowl-winning catch was the culmination of a remarkable drive and an unbelievable season, it was his performance in the NFC conference title game that appeared to redefine him.

On Jan. 20 in Green Bay, with the wind chill reaching -24, Burress took the field on his gimpy ankle and put on one of the most impressive receiving clinics in postseason history. On the Frozen Tundra he torched the Packers for 11 catches and 151 yards and had another long reception waved off on a questionable call. He was the difference, the unstoppable force as the Giants prevailed 23-20 in OT.

He was no longer a maddeningly mercurial physical freak. He was a warrior. Receivers — particularly those with ligament damage in their right ankle — don't go into Lambeau in January and dominate. But Plax did just that.

Next up: a brash prediction of victory in the Super Bowl complete with eerily prescient final score (Burress predicted 23-17, it ended 17-14).

A season that began with three touchdown receptions against the Cowboys ended where it began for Burress: in the end zone with the ball. He could ride off into the Arizona desert a hero.

Cue the descent.

As the confetti rained down in Glendale, Burress had three years remaining on the six-year, $25M free agent contract he signed in 2005. The idea that Plax and his agent Drew Rosenhaus might actually honor that deal was, of course, laughable.

While the Giants had prevented the Patriots from completing their perfect season, Burress had achieved something of a perfect season himself. He somehow managed to be too injured to practice but healthy enough to completely dominate guys on Sunday. He had taken a great gig and made it even better.

But even if he only had to work one day a week for less than six months a year, he still wanted a raise.

In early June, Burress announced he wouldn't be participating in veteran mini-camp because he wasn't happy with the way his contract renegotiation was progressing.

"Me and my agent are trying to get a deal done so I can stay a New York Giant for a long time," Burress said. "I, personally, don't like the way they're going and I am not happy about it. I am choosing not to participate."

It's hard to expect a guy to practice in June when he wasn't asked to practice in October, November and December.

Burress' impromptu mini-camp holdout caught Coughlin off guard. The coach was still using the injury alibi to explain Burress's absence from the practice field, chalking it up to a sore knee.

Burress made it clear, however, that the knee, ankle and shoulder that had kept him off the practice field during the Giants' Super Bowl run were all fine. Once he had his new contract he'd be ready to go.

This must have gone over really well with all his teammates — particularly the offensive and defensive linemen lugging that extra weight — who were choosing to participate despite making far less money than Burress.

When training camp started, there was no new deal in place and — surprise! — Burress's ankle began hurting again. (You see, it's not a contract holdout if you claim you're hurt.)

Rosenhaus found it hard to believe that the Giants would start their title defense without Eli Manning's favorite target. He was right.

Just minutes before the deadline for securing a new deal on opening night, Burress got paid — a new $35M deal with $11M guaranteed for 2008. The new contract did what all the physical therapy and anti-inflammatories could not: miraculously healing his ankle.

With his new satchel of cash Burress went out and dominated the Redskins with 10 catches for 133 yards in a 16-7 opening night win.

He'd won the Big One. He'd made management blink. He'd gotten paid. He was the go-to receiver of the best young quarterback in the NFL.

But if the 6-foot-5, 232-pound Burress was a beast on the field, the Giants had created an even bigger monster off it.

Practice? Optional. Physical therapy? We'll fine you if you miss it, but we just rewarded your recalcitrance with $11M to cover those puny sanctions.

Was it any surprise that Burress came to view himself as entirely separate from the team? In late September when Burress went AWOL for two days and failed to return the team's calls, Coughlin suspended him for the "unexcused absence."

Guess he finally got tired of making excuses for Burress.

It was during this suspension, encompassing the team's bye week and a Week 5 blowout of the Seahawks, that FOXSports.com's Jay Glazer reported that Burress had been fined 40-50 times by the team in a tenure that was only 50 games long. (And you wonder why Tom Coughlin's face is fixed like that.)

For Coughlin, it was simple: 50 strikes and you're out. For one game.

It also came to light that the police had gone to Burress's New Jersey home for domestic disturbances on June 2 and Aug. 19, sparking debate as to whether he had violated the player conduct policy by not notifying the league of an interaction with the police. On both occasions his wife Tiffany had taken out temporary restraining orders against Burress that were later dismissed in state court.

With Burress serving his one-game suspension, the Giants destroyed the Seahawks 44-6 in Week 5. The wide receiver, reportedly chastened, returned to the lineup the following week.

He was, by all accounts, a good citizen for a whole week. Then came Week 7 against the 49ers. Upset by an offensive pass interference call, Burress bitched his way to an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty (for which the league fined him $20K), then continued his moaning about the officials after the game (earning another $20K) in fines. In between, he threw a ball into the stands (for another $5K fine) and had a heated argument with Coughlin.

Imagine if the Giants hadn't won by double figures.

By Week 12 Burress was out with a hamstring injury and the Giants steamrolled the Cardinals without him, putting up 37 points in the stadium where Plax had embarrassed Ellis Hobbs with 35 seconds left in Super Bowl XLII.

Last Friday night, having already been ruled out for Sunday, Burress merely embarrassed himself.

In a recent poll of NFL players asking which coach you'd least like to play for, Tom Coughlin was the "winner." Says a lot about how important winning is to NFL players as opposed to, say, short practices and lax meeting start times. I don't know how or if Burress answered the question, but he probably doesn't have to worry about playing for Tom Coughlin again.

Criminal penalties aside, why would Coughlin keep beating his head against this wall?

Especially given the way the Giants have moved the ball in Burress's absence. As if to prove a point, Eli Manning went out and had his first 300-yard passing game of the season on Sunday, strafing the Redskins for 305 yards on 21-of-34 passing.

In three starts in place of Burress, Domenik Hixon has caught 15 passes for 230 yards and a TD. Those numbers project out to 80 catches for 1,227 yards over 16 games.

In other words, don't let the gun discharge into your thigh on the way out the door, Plax.

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: December 1, 2008

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