We gave you the heads-up yesterday about disgraced, free agent wide receiver Plaxico Burress’ first steps to rehabilitate his reputation at a Monday morning press conference with the National Urban League, the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence and new mentor Tony Dungy. As was the case with Michael Vick, Burress now speaks against the activity that landed him a 20 month prison sentence.
“I can’t go back in time; I can’t get those two years back. The only thing I can do now is learn from what happened to me, to grow from it and take it one day at a time. That’s really the best way to handle this situation.” ~Plaxico Burress as quoted by Mike Garafolo, The Star-Ledger
The first steps on the road to redemption are complete. Call a press conference to repudiate the activity that got you in trouble? Check. Vick says he no longer carries a gun and no longer has one in his house.
Align with a non-profit that stands against the practice you now denounce? Check.
Seek counseling and backing by Tony Dungy? Check.
What’s next is an early, well-publicized event for Burress to testify that he changed his character enough that an NFL team will take a chance on signing him.
Those teams are out there, thanks in large part to Michael Vick’s success with the Philadelphia Eagles. Vick used this same approach for his return to the NFL. After a year as a back-up, Vick spectacularly successful for the Philadelphia Eagles.
Vick’s success did more to lessen resistance to Burress than anything Burress does. Doubts about Burress are not so much about talent or conditioning as about his character and age. Burress was bounced from the New York Giants because he got full of himself. Andrew Brandt summarized it best in his January 2011 National Football Post story:
“Fresh off the Super Bowl victory in 2008, Burress and [agent Drew] Rosenhaus made advances to Giants management about an adjustment to his existing deal he signed in 2005, a $25 million deal that had three years left on it. And the Giants eventually rewarded Burress with a 5-year, $35 million deal at the start of the 2008 season. As it turned out, after all of the suspensions, forfeitures, lost game checks, fines and missed workout bonuses, Burress’ total new money received of that $35 million was around $3 million.
“Twenty days into the contract, the Giants suspended Burress for one game for violating team rules – missing multiple team meetings and being unreachable by phone. Prior to an appeal by Burress, the Giants cut Burress’ fine in half but retained the one-game suspension, costing Burress $117,500.”
Prison can be a searing experience for celebrity-athletes, enough of a burn to knock them off their pedestal of privilege. Perhaps, Plaxico’s experience was enough to see that his contract requires that he perform for his team on more days than Sunday.
The locker room knocks about Burress are bigger issues to NFL teams than the gun charge. At his age (33), Burress would be expected to mentor young receivers on what it takes to excel. NFL excellence demands so much more than talent. It calls for homework, study, practice, drills, partnership with coaches. All the things Burress stopped doing after the Giants won the Super Bowl.
If Burress can show that he gets it, then he deserves another shot. The risk might we worth it. Michael Vick proved that.