Giant Hypocrisy – Separate Rules for Plax?

Plaxico Burress has been one of the most dependable players on the Giants for some time. He suddenly has positioned himself to earn another distinction as one of the scariest players on the Giants.

And I'm not talking about scary-good, just scary.

We don't really know Burress. So we don't really know the extent of the problems he's capable of creating.

Was the one-game suspension the last straw in a pattern of rules-breaking? Would it foreshadow more serious transgressions in the future?

Who knows anymore? Here is what we know: We know he became one of the heroes of last season while playing through terrible ankle pain. We know he was off to another fine start, maybe headed to the Pro Bowl this season. We know he didn't show up for work on Sept. 22, didn't even call or return messages, and was suspended for a game. And we know of separate reports – police calls to his home, 40-50 fines by the Giants – that further cast suspicion on Burress' character.

We know he's a heck of a receiver. But we don't know what makes Burress tick. We don't know what would possess somebody to blow off work without calling the boss or returning the boss' calls. What could Burress possibly have been thinking by not calling, no matter the crisis he was enduring? Was this some kind of off-beat thank you for the Giants extending his contract on opening day to the tune of $35 million across five years?

Burress' most recent behavior is so terribly inexcusable that you wonder what he might be capable of next. Remember, this is a guy who has raised more red flags in his eight-year NFL career than a Chinese band member. We thought he had proven wrong his cloudy reputation in Pittsburgh. We thought he had grown beyond early indiscretions with the Giants: a first-quarter benching at San Diego in 2005 for showing up late to a meeting; a handful of hand-waving displays for not getting the ball thrown to him; a dust-up with Michael Strahan in 2006 after failing to hustle following an interception.

Yet there were more signs of irresponsibility, insubordination or plain stubbornness since the start of the new year. There was the day during Super Bowl week when Burress was the only player on the team late – by a half hour – for a media session. He said he had lost track of time while hanging out with his wife and toddler, Elijah. Witnesses saw him standing in the lobby outside the ballroom just before the session began.

There was his refusal to participate in June's mandatory minicamp while upset over the pedestrian pace of negotiations for a contract extension. The media consensus was that Burress deserved the extension despite having three years and $10.5 million left on his then-current contract. So Burress got a pass in the media, and the Giants quenched his thirst with a lucrative deal.

The latest stories have police twice responding to Burress' home for domestic issues. Then the other day, FOX's Jay Glazer reported Burress has been fined by the Giants 40-50 times.

If that's the case, the Plaxico Burress story may have some dark chapters remaining.

But Burress isn't the only mysterious figure in this controversy. The Giants are a little hard to figure out as well these days. After all, if Burress has flagrantly violated team rules, why have the Giants chosen to wait until now to finally suspend him?

Remember, this is a team, led by head coach Tom Coughlin, that constantly preaches the importance of a team-first mentality. It wasn't long ago when Coughlin was fining the most important player in the locker room, Strahan, for being less than five minutes early – not late – to meetings.

Why, then, would the Giants continue to slap Burress' wrist for incessant rules-breaking? Everyone knows Coughlin softened last season. But could he have gotten to the point where he looked away while Burress trotted into meetings late?

The Giants are looking like the classic enabler. They didn't fine Burress, according to reports, when he arrived late to the Super Bowl interview session. Now they reportedly needed to fine him 40-50 times before suspending him for a game.

Maybe the Giants had no choice on the contract extension. Maybe they had to extend Burress or risk losing him mentally. He's a player who seems to need occasional coddling. And Burress was, after all, a key figure on a team that won with old-fashioned team-first virtues last year. Burress must not have been too disruptive given the results.

Something doesn't add up. Either Burress hasn't broken nearly as many rules as has been reported, or the Giants have decided on a separate set of rules for Burress and his teammates. It certainly didn't sound good when fellow receiver Steve Smith said, "Plax is Plax; he does what he wants.''

Burress and the Giants better make sure the Plax headlines reflect his on-field play from this point forward. Coughlin established the leadership council before last season to enhance the lines of communication between players and the coach. Now the council needs to establish a line of communication with Burress. One word to him should suffice: Enough.

About the leadership council – 10 strong last season, 12 this season – it's worth wondering why Burress wasn't chosen as a representative either year? I mean, Coughlin put lighting-rod tight end Jeremy Shockey on the council last year. It's hard to imagine Coughlin ignoring Burress both times without having issues with the receiver.

"Plaxico Burress has to take care of Plaxico Burress,'' he said during training camp of his latest ankle injury.

Now the Giants have to take care of the Giants. Burress earned their trust on the field a while ago. Now he has to earn their trust off the field.

Who is Plaxico Burress? The hard-nosed receiver who sacrificed his body for the team? Or the enigmatic receiver who sacrifices the team for selfishness?

The Giants might not even know the answer to that one.

Kevin Gleason covers the Giants for the Times Herald-Record in Middletown, N.Y.


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