That strange dynamic took another bizarre twist prior to their showdown with the Cowboys when Michael Strahan and Plaxico Burress verbally slapped each other, an exchange capped by a wild-eyed tirade against the media by Strahan in front of his locker.
During his weekly Monday appearance on WFAN radio the morning after their disturbing loss to the Titans, Strahan was asked to comment on the recent play of Burress, which has bordered on detached and disinterested.
In Nashville, Burress had streaked down the right sideline on a second-and-4 from the Giants 35 in the fourth quarter. Titans cornerback Pacman Jones was defending him.
Manning's throw was not accurate. It sailed over Burress' head, as many have done this season and Jones intercepted. But it's what Burress didn't do that generated the attention.
He didn't attempt to break up the pass. He didn't try to interfere with Jones.
"That's something that happens on the field," Manning said. "Plaxico and I need to address that. It's one of those deals where he got cut off at the end [of the pattern]. It was a great play by Pacman. But as a receiver, you need to know that you can't have those passes intercepted. You need to fight for the ball, knock it down. You have to play defense, do something. You can't have an interception. There's not a whole lot you can say."
And after Jones intercepted the ball, Burress gave a half-hearted try to tackle him, setting the stage for Tennessee's comeback from 21-0 down.
Apparently, some of Burress' teammates noticed and Strahan, considered a team leader, offered a well-reasoned critique that was hard to argue with.
"It's a shame because Plaxico is a great player and a good person to be around," he said. "But at the same time you are judged by your actions on the field and you can't give up, you can't quit. You are not quitting on yourself, you are quitting on us. We all work too hard collectively to have something like that happen. I don't understand what his motivation, or lack of motivation is, in those types of circumstances.
"But I'm pretty sure I'll try to find out. He's too great of a player to have people think he's a quitter or that he doesn't try hard. We can all see what he can. Just don't be labeled as a part-time player, someone who tries only when he wants to. I hope he realizes it. I think he needs to realize it."
On the morning of Nov. 29 in the Giants locker room, ESPN reporter Kelly Naqi approached Strahan to ask him to elaborate on his comments. Strahan originally refused, reminding her he does his weekly media briefing on Thursdays.
Naqi was then among the media group who approached Burress in search of his response. Naqi read Strahan's comments to Burress who seemed surprised, saying it was the first time he'd heard them.
"I'm sorry that he feels that way," Burress said. "It's tough for a teammate to say that about you. I don't do those kind of things. I always try to stay in my place. I don't talk that way about any of my teammates. It's that's how he feels, that's how he feels."
Moments later, Strahan emerged from a locker room hallway and walked to his locker. Once there he immediately confronted Naqi, who was standing in back of the group of reporters.
What Strahan never bothered to do during the next five fiery minutes was confirm or deny the intent of his statements.
"I want to see your face when you ask that question," Strahan snapped. "I know you'll make it into a negative. You are implying there's more division in the locker room than there is. Are you a responsible journalist?"
Strahan went on to say that he'd spoken to Burress at a players' meeting Monday held about an hour after his comments were made, something Burress had already denied had happened.
Strahan, who fashions himself a budding television analyst, then continued his tirade, blaming the entire incident on the distortion of the media.
"We've just lost three games in row," Strahan said. "What do you want us to do, put our heads down in a corner. Look a man in the eye before you try to kill him or make up something. Look me in the eye. We don't prepare to come in [to the locker room] to have someone who wants to take a comment and try to divide teammates in a way to disrupt the team. Come in here and take a comment and try to use it to disrupt he team. If you want to come here with the negative, you're coming to the wrong guy. I'm not a negative guy. I don't kill my teammates. I'm a man."
In stark contrast stood Burress. Serenity always seems to envelop him. He takes his time getting dressed, making sure everything is just right. He carefully considers his thoughts before sharing them. He doesn't smile or frown very much. He's not overtly friendly or crass.
But when things don't go right for him on the field, a much different personality appears. And the Giants are having some difficulty accepting it lately.
"I'm aware that a statement [by Strahan] has been made," Tom Coughlin said. "What I'm trying to do right now, quite frankly, is pull everyone together and encourage. I think it's important everyone take a stand, from a team standpoint."
Burress, who seemed to have distanced himself from the controversy that's shadowed his career, has staunchly defended his actions, especially relating to the Jones' interception.
"You can say that if you want. I'm a competitor," Burress said. "I go out and try the best I can on every play. I went inside the guy and I couldn't get to the ball. I thought he couldn't, either. I just misjudged the ball. It was a bad play on my part. If I make a bad play, I'll always admit it.
"I should have tackled him and taken the 15-yard penalty. If I knew the ball was close enough for him to get a hand on it, I probably would have tackled him. I tried to make the tackle, but he's one of the most dangerous guys in the league. I couldn't just blow the guy up. I tried and he got away from me. Shoot, he gets away from a lot of people."
Yet in each of two previous weeks – against the Bears and Jaguars – Burress was involved in a similar plays with similar outcomes. He barely tried to tackle Bears cornerback Charles Tillman after an interception and seemed to stop short on a pattern that resulted in an interception by Jacksonville's Deon Grant.
And now his teammates are starting to notice, just another interesting day in what's becoming a confusing season.
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