Big-time Burress

Plax everything Giants could have hoped for. BR> The Giants' No. 1 receiver and the infamous receiver who used to play for the Philadelphia Eagles do have a few similarities. Both are terrific talents. Both are outspoken. And both share the same controversial agent. The similarities, though, are out-weighed by one major difference: Plaxico Burress is no T.O.

He never has been, no matter what the reputation was that he brought with him from Pittsburgh, and he never will be according to his new teammates. He's a positive force in the locker room, not a disruption. He's soft-spoken, even when he's opinionated. He's never been a loudmouth.

"He's a quiet guy and people probably mistake that a lot of times," said Giants fullback Jim Finn. "You always hear about guys who are quiet and they're always thought to be a problem, but as you've seen it's not the case."

So while Terrell Owens has been acting like a clown on ESPN, holding press conferences in his driveway and tearing apart the four-time defending NFC East champion, the 28-year-old Burress has been everything the Giants expected and wanted when they signed him in March. He's justified his six-year, $25 million contract and $8.25 million signing bonus with 48 catches for 706 yards and five touchdowns through the first nine games of the season.

But, even better, he's hardly been in any trouble at all.

"I'm not a troublemaker," Burress said. "It's not like I do drugs or sell drugs or anything like that. I'm just a guy that sometimes I voice my opinion. Some people don't like it. But for me, I came here and tried to earn my respect from my teammates from Day 1. I go out and play hard for them and just let them know I'm a team player. I've always been a team player. It's all about winning games. That's the bottom line."

That's not to say his transition to Tom Coughlin's Giants has been completely smooth. Just weeks after he signed, his old teammate and friend, Jerome Bettis, predicted, "some butting of the heads" between Burress and his new coach. "I know he's not a stickler for the rules," Bettis said then, "and Coughlin is all about the rules."

Sure enough, in the third week of the regular season, Burress and the rules got tangled. He was late twice for meetings in the week before the Giants traveled to San Diego – once because of a flat tire and once because he was shopping for Coughlin-ordered black socks. As a result, he was fined twice by Coughlin and benched for the first quarter of the Giants-Chargers game.

It was a stunning move by the coach – some said it was an overreaction. Burress wasn't happy about it and he said as much after the game.

But he never made it a major issue. He said what he wanted to say, and then the subject was dropped.

"I guess it said a lot when some of my teammates spoke up for me and said that we're a better team with me in there," Burress said. "That kind of said a lot about me and what the guys think about me as a player and as a person. It happened. I didn't let it affect my play. We came in and scored 17 unanswered points in the quarter, so I think that right there kind of said a lot about my presence being in the offense.

"So I served my little quarter time punishment and went on about my business."

His business included five catches for 52 yards in three quarters against the Chargers in a 45-23 loss. In fact, when he entered the game it was already a blowout, but he helped rally the Giants to within a point, 21-20, at the half. When it was over, some of his teammates – most notably tight end Jeremy Shockey – admitted the Giants could have used Burress in the fourth quarter. Even soft-spoken quarterback Eli Manning said having Burress in the first quarter "probably" would have made a difference in the game.

Regardless, Burress didn't let the punishment stop him. One week later, he responded to his critics with a huge, 10-catch, 204-yard performance in a win over the St. Louis Rams.

It's also worth pointing out that, to the best of anyone's knowledge, he hasn't been late to a meeting since.

That's not to say that he and Coughlin are on exactly the same page. He calls many of Coughlin's rules "nitpicky" and admits that "sometimes you just bite your lip" to deal with them.

"It's just a little nitpicky stuff that some days you're really not going to be in the mood for, but you've got to deal with it," Burress said. "You don't see the big picture, I guess, that he sees in some of the things that he does.

"But I want to win. The bottom line is winning. Some of the rules and things that are running around here come along with the territory. But at the end of the day we're (6-3) and it's well worth it."

It's that attitude – the anti-T.O. attitude – that has endeared Burress to his teammates and earned him the respect of his taskmaster coach. He is more Coughlin's kind of player that most people suspected – both on and off the field.

"He's done a very good job really in both respects," Coughlin says. "He has done exactly what we thought when we brought him here."

And along the way, Burress and Coughlin have even found some common ground on which to build their future. The peace between them may seem uneasy at times, but there's no doubt that it is genuine.

"I think we're growing to like each other," Burress said. "There's definitely some differences and things that he does that I don't necessarily like. But sometimes you just got to take it the way it is. You know it's your job. Don't let it affect you. It comes along with the territory. So sometimes I just bite my lip and do what I've got to do because it's going to make him happy."

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