In the end, it wasn't legal problems that doomed Plaxico
Burress' tenure with the Giants. It was the Court of Coughlin and Reese
that decided to throw the book at the wide receiver, not Manhattan's
assistant district attorney.
The Giants released the talented but troubled star Friday afternoon, just over four months after he accidentally shot himself in the right thigh at a New York City nightclub Nov. 29.
Although many presumed Burress would never wear a Giants uniform again after that incident, the front office always maintained that a return was possible. It wasn't until Friday that the team cut ties with him.
That, it turns out, may have been exactly what Burress wanted.
From the start, general manager Jerry Reese outlined conditions for Burress' return. One of them was a resolution of the legal issues he faces. Another was a new, improved attitude. According to a person familiar with the Giants' thinking, it was a failure to meet that second condition that caused the divorce.
"There was no reason to think that would be the case," the source said of the attitude change required by the team.
Burress also made it clear to the Giants that he no longer desired to be a part of the team, according to the source. His name appeared on a list of Drew Rosenhaus-represented players seeking a trade earlier this year, and Burress privately had told the Giants he did not want to remain with the team.
His refusal to negotiate contractual issues such as the $1-million installment of his signing bonus - which was argued by the NFLPA in front of a Special Master (a court adjunct agreed to by both sides) earlier this week in Philadelphia - also led to the decision to release him.
(The Giants were due to pay the installment in December but withheld it after he was suspended. A decision in that matter is expected next week.)
"He made it clear he did not want to be here," the source said. "His attitude was: 'I don't owe them, they owe me.' "
Burress was unable to be reached Friday night. In a statement released through the team, Reese said he had hoped Burress would come around.
"I am an optimist, and I believe most situations can be worked out," Reese said. "We hung in there as long as we could in hopes that there could be a resolution to this situation other than the decision we made today to release Plaxico. It wasn't to be, so now we have to move on. Like everybody else here, we want nothing but the best for Plaxico, and we are appreciative of the contributions he made to this franchise."
The decision ended a four-year relationship that began when Burress was signed as a free agent before the 2005 season and reached a crescendo with the shooting incident. Burress was suspended for the final four games of the 2008 season after the incident.
In his four years with the Giants, Burress caught 244 passes for 3,681 yards and 33 touchdown passes. He also caught the game-winning touchdown pass in Super Bowl XLII.
"Plaxico's contribution to our championship season in 2007 can never be underestimated or undervalued," Tom Coughlin said. "He displayed tremendous determination throughout that season. Having said that, I have always been as concerned about Plaxico as a man as I have been about him as a player, and my hope is that everything that has happened over the past several months represents a turning point."
Burress still faces two second-degree felonies for gun possession; his pre-trial hearing scheduled for earlier this week was adjourned until June 15. If convicted of those crimes, he faces a mandatory minimum of 3 1/2 years in prison on each count.
Although assistant district attorney John Wolfstaetter is said to be amenable to a plea bargain - nearly all second-degree charges like Burress' are bargained down - he also appears to want Burress to serve some time in jail.
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