Burress skipping minicamp

Plaxico Burress is boycotting the Steelers' minicamp but his agent said it has nothing to do with his contract, which expires at the end of the coming season. <br><br> "Plax's reason for not attending is for a personal matter," said agent Gene Mato.

Steelers Coach Bill Cowher received a call from Mato's associate, Scott Parker, on Thursday and was told Burress wouldn't be attending the three-day minicamp. Cowher wasn't happy about the situation Friday morning after the first practice.

"It is an unexcused absence," Cowher said. "I'm very disappointed in his decision and we are ready to move on with or without him."

The Steelers have not talked to Burress about an extension, but Mato said it has nothing to do with Burress' absence.

"He'll talk about it when he comes back," Mato said.

Burress' teammates don't believe it'll become much of a distraction.

"He is one of the leaders on the team but he has to do what he has to do," said receiver Hines Ward. "There've been so many situations with somebody trying to improve themselves financially, but really I don't know what his reasons are."

Burress had been working out at the Steelers' practice facility prior to the start of minicamp. "I've seen him a couple times coming in with the coaches but I didn't expect anything like this today," Ward said.

"Is it disrupting? I don't know. Like I said, he is one of our veteran guys who a lot of younger guys look up to. It's still early. It's minicamp. It's our first mandatory practice and he's the only no-show. I really can't say. I've just got to go out there, continue working hard and let the younger guys know what it takes to make it on this level and continue being a leader on this team."

Burress' production fell from 78 receptions for 1,325 yards and seven touchdowns in 2002 to 60 receptions for 860 yards and four touchdowns last season. The numbers were Burress' lowest in all three categories since his rookie season in 2000. In the last four games of the 2003 season, Burress caught only nine passes for 123 yards.

Quarterback Tommy Maddox believes Burress is missing an opportunity to regain the chemistry the two had in 2002.

"I think any time you can throw, it benefits. Every day you get the chance to throw with somebody it helps you out," Maddox said. "With that said, it's still really early before the season."

Minicamp is a time for rookies to become accustomed with their surroundings. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers' first-round draft pick, is just starting on that long road.

"It's fast," said Roethlisberger. "The toughest part about it is not necessarily knowing the play but being able to remember what the coach tells me to tell the rest of the team. I asked coach if I could have a play sheet on my wrist."

What Roethlisberger went through Friday is a long way from the no-huddle offense he ran at Miami, Ohio.

"You just had to make a few calls, tell the O-linemen what to do," he said. "Today, just trying to remember all the motions and shifts was tough, but I'm starting to get it."

Roethlisberger admitted to being nervous, but that it was to be expected.

"The legs were a little shaky and the arm was a little weak," he said. "But I'm ready to go now."

Roethlisberger threw with more velocity than all of the Steelers quarterbacks. Maddox, in fact, was intercepted by Kendrell Bell, who returned it for a touchdown. The play followed a Maddox pass linebacker James Farrior had dropped.

"I told Hines it looks like we haven't thrown the ball in five months," said Cowher. "But there was good energy and there's a lot of excitement."

Along with Burress, two other Steelers missed the first day of minicamp practices. Tight end Jay Riemersma is still recovering from last season's shoulder injury. Reserve offensive tackle Josh Burr is sidelined with a torn anterior cruciate ligament suffered in NFL Europe. Jeff Reed dressed but won't begin kicking for another two weeks.

The Steelers also have two new starters. Clark Haggans, as expected, took the place of Jason Gildon at left outside linebacker. Gildon will be released after June 1. The other new starter is three-year veteran Chris Hope at free safety in place of recently released Brent Alexander. "Long time due," said Hope. "My expectations are high, so it's nothing new to myself."

Steel City Insider Top Stories