FLORHAM PARK, NJ — The word Plaxico Burress referenced over and over again on his first day at Jets training camp was patience. Patience towards learning a new system. Patience in regards to getting back to a football-ready level. Patience about getting back on the field after a 2-year hiatus. Just patience.
“Patience, man. One of the greatest things I’ve learned from this whole process is learning how to wait for everything to come back together. Just take it one day at a time. Be patient. I’m not in a rush,” Burress said to reporters at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center on Monday.
The process he is referring to, of course, is his two-year stint in prison stemming from illegal gun possession charges after shooting himself in the leg at the New York nightclub LQ on November 28, 2008.
As is the case with many ex-convicts, Burress had a lot of time for self-reflection on the mistakes he’s made in his life. During his time with the Giants, while effective on the field, Burress was problematic. He neglected to practice with his teammates during the 2008 mini-camps and training camps after not being pleased with his contract in 2008. During the season he was suspended for one game after showing up late/missing meetings and being unreachable by the team. On the field, he received $45,000 dollars in fine for the following:
- $20,000 — For inappropriate post-game comments in reference to the officiating
- $20,000 — For unsportsmanlike conduct (verbal abuse of a head linesman)
- $5,000 — For throwing a ball in the stands.
But that is all in the past, and according to Burress, he is a changed man now. “I’ve went through a lot of different things emotionally during that time,” he said. “I had a lot of time to think about the things that I did. But being here now, I don’t have time to reflect. Those things that I did are just so far away from what I’m trying to do now. I just have to move on as a player and a person.”
Being a part of the Jets is one way he has moved on. He credits this team and organization as a big part of his recovery process. “I’m in a happy place right now. I’m in a great organization with a great group of guys. I couldn’t ask to be in a better position right now,” he said.
Burress cites the camaraderie of this team and the coaching staff, the collective work ethic as well as their strong belief in the unified goal of winning a championship that led him to be so excited about the upcoming season. Again we see the influence of the “Rex Ryan effect” as it drew in yet another big-name, big-play athlete.
“You [can] just see it in [Ryan’s] personality in general. He supports his players like I’ve never seen in a coach before. His players respect him and they go out and play hard for him. As a player he’s everything you’d expect out of a head coach. He respects us not only as a player but as a person too,” he said.
Receiving mate, Santonio Holmes, has been a friend of Burress since he was drafted to the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2004. When asked about how he feels about how Burress will perform, Holmes had this to say: “A football player is a football player, regardless of what goes on. The only thing that can stop us are injuries — which would keep us away from the game. But I think the mental capacity he has has some much football built up inside it has no where else to go but up.”
The two quickly bonded over their Big-10 connection (Burress at Michigan State and Holmes at Ohio State) and through the mutual friendship of Holmes’ first cousin, former Patriots running back, Fred Taylor.
The bond was so strong that when general manager Mike Tannenbaum and Ryan approached Holmes about the possibility of signing Burress, all he had to do was point to his bracelet. The black bracelet fused a bond between Burress, Holmes and few other NFL receivers whom Holmes would not share. Holmes and others have worn it ever since Burress entered the Oneida Correctional Facility in Rome, New York on September 22, 2009.
A perfect example of the camaraderie Burress was talking about with this team. After patiently waiting to take his NFL career off hold, the wait is over for Plaxico Burress. And he couldn’t have asked to be surrounded by a better support group.
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