Parting Shot

There are times when there are not enough words to describe a situation but this is not one of them. All it took was two words from Tom Coughlin to accurately and succinctly convey the emotions of the entire Giants organization regarding the Plaxico Burress affair.

"Disappointment,'' Coughlin said, "and sadness.''

Well said.

Of course there is overwhelming disappointment that the 31-year-old receiver saw fit on a fateful Friday night that spilled over into a terrible Saturday morning to stick a .40-caliber Glock into his sweatpants before going out for a night of partying at the Latin Quarter nightclub in Manhattan. Disappointment that Burress was allowed into the club even though the gun was discovered, because that's the preferential treatment star athletes are often afforded. Disappointment that Antonio Pierce, accompanying Burress that night, was dragged into this sordid story when Burress accidentally pulled the trigger of the gun and shot himself in the right thigh.

Let's not forget sadness that a player in the prime of his career might never play again and if he does, surely not with the Giants. Sadness that the Giants had no other recourse but to place him on the reserve/non-football injury list and suspend him for the final four games of the season, officially banishing from having any contact with the team. Sadness that this drive to a second Super Bowl will go on without Burress, who was such a huge part of the first. Sadness that a season that should be remembered as so special is now marred by something so sinister. Sadness that the life of a young man with a wife and toddler son has been turned inside out, that real prison time is possible, that a family unit might be torn apart, however temporarily.

"This is an important time for him to take care of his body and heal up and also deal with the very serious legal consequences and other issues in his life,'' co-owner John Mara said the day the team announced the suspension. "When I spoke with Plaxico he expressed great remorse for letting down his teammates."

The Giants will go on without Burress because that is what teams do. They went on without Tiki Barber, without Michael Strahan, without Jeremy Shockey and Osi Umenyiora. This is not the same. Everyone involved realizes how senseless and preventable this should have been.

Ever since Burress caught the winning touchdown pass in the final minute of Super Bowl XLII there were warning signs that something was not right. His habitual lateness grew worse. His grasp of responsibly loosened. He became increasingly unmindful of the consequences of his actions. The fines levied against him grew more frequent and costly. Nothing seemed to get through to Plaxico Burress. He was suspended for the game against the Seahawks for violating team rules; he simply did not show up for work one day and then deliberately did not return calls from the team wondering about his whereabouts. His production on the field decreased.

All this was troubling. None of this added up to Burress going out that night with a handgun that has no permit in New York and before you know it he is being charged with two felony counts of second degree criminal possession of a weapon. If convicted, he faces a sentence of three-and-a-half to 15 years in jail.

Burress' base salary this season is $3.5 million; NFL players are paid based on a 17-week schedule (the 16-game regular-season plus the bye week). He will not be paid for the remaining portion of his salary, which comes out to $823,529. The Giants could also opt not to pay out the $1 million portion of a signing bonus he's due on Dec. 10. If the Giants cut him following the season, he stands to lose $27 million of the $35 million contract he signed at the start of this season.

This is a personal fall from grace of immense proportions.

"I think that in the position that I am in, and probably 32 [head coaches] around the league, we all feel like that if we can recognize someone who needs help we can help them,'' Tom Coughlin said. "In this case I'm saddened because obviously, despite the fact that we had two really good weeks, this happens and obviously I'm saddened by it.''

Burress departed as the team's second-leading receiver with 35 catches for 454 yards and four touchdowns. Domenik Hixon moves in as his replacement and there's little concern about his ability, considering the Giants this season were 3-0 with him working with the first-unit offense when Burress was out on suspension or with an injury.

"Listen, he's a great player,'' Chris Snee said of Burress. "To say we're a better team without him, you can't say that. But we still are a pretty darned good team.''

Said Coughlin: "When you lose a player of Plaxico's ability, it is incumbent that everybody step up and fill the void. In the last two seasons, this team has done an outstanding job of that.''

There is nothing in the manual that prepares a coach for getting a team to move forward while one of the key players is facing incarceration. The first day the Giants got together after the suspension was announced, Coughlin gathered the team and immediately brought everyone up to speed on the Burress situation. In typical Coughlin fashion, though, he did not belabor the point and quickly moved on to his presentation on the next opponent, the Eagles.

"Maybe we took one minute out of our usual preparation,'' Snee said.

Justin Tuck described the day as "normal; we went about our business as we would have if Plaxico was here.''

Players did all they could to express concern for Burress but quickly made it clear they were moving on without him.

"I'm going to be honest with you, as far as this locker room is concerned it is already a dead issue,'' defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka said. "Our hearts are definitely with Plax … but as far as playing football … we can put stuff behind us.''

They have to.

"This is about one guy and a bad accident that occurred and no one wished this, no one thought this would happen,'' Eli Manning said. "It's unfortunate but our thoughts are with Plaxico in his journey over the next weeks to months and what may happen to him.''

The Giants Beat Top Stories