In his first interview since accidentally shooting himself in the leg at a Manhattan nightclub in November, Plaxico Burress told "E:60" on Monday that the gunshot wound he suffered was nearly fatal.
"I almost killed my own self," Burress said during the interview. "And I got to go to prison for almost killing my own self."
Burress, 32, said the bullet that pierced his right thigh almost reached his femoral artery, which supplies blood to the lower extremities. "I was like two millimeters from it," he added. "If I show you the MRIs and the X-rays, you would not believe."
Burress, a wide receiver who caught the winning touchdown in the New York Giants' Super Bowl victory against the New England Patriots in February 2008, will be sentenced to two years in prison on Sept. 22. He accepted a plea bargain this past Thursday to one count of attempted criminal possession of a weapon, an unlicensed .40-caliber Glock semiautomatic pistol.
In an exclusive interview with reporter Jeremy Schaap, Burress recounted the events surrounding the shooting, which occurred shortly after 1:30 a.m. on Nov. 29, 2008. Burress said that when he arrived at the Latin Quarter nightclub with teammates Antonio Pierce and Ahmad Bradshaw, wasn't trying to hide his loaded gun from security staff. He was patted down and passed through a metal detector, he said, adding the staff knew he was carrying a gun.
The following are excerpts from the interview:
Schaap: Security at the Latin Quarter patted you down, felt the gun, you produced it, and they said go right in?
Burress: Well, the metal detector let me in. And I'm maybe there for like, maybe five minutes. And it's getting so crowded, everybody's coming over, "Hey, how you doing?" So the VIP says, you know, "I'm going to take you upstairs so you can relax, where nobody will bother you." And I'm walking up the stairs, and I miss a step. And so my gun, like, slides down my pants. So, it's getting ready to hit the ground, and I don't want it to hit the ground. So when it slides down my jeans, you know, I go to stop it from hitting the ground. And I don't think you could do it in a million times that, through your pants, you could try to stop it from hitting the ground. And my finger, like, hit right on the trigger. And it's like, what are the odds of that happening? And it's like, when it happens, I don't even realize that, you know, I'm shot. I'm like, I take two or three steps and my pants are, like, wet. And had on some Chuck Taylors and I look down and the top of my shoe was, like, red. And I looked at AP.
Schaap: Antonio Pierce.
Burress: Yeah, Antonio. And I'm like "Yo, take me to the hospital." He's like, "What's wrong?" I was like --
Schaap: Nobody heard the gunshot in the crowded club? Noise?
Burress: Nobody. I was like, "Take me to the hospital." And he was like, "Why?" And I said, "I think I just shot myself." And he was like, "No." And I was like, "Look." And he looked at my shoe and he was, like, he took me to the hospital.
Schaap: And, of course, there were reports that you were wearing sweatpants.
Burress: No, I was wearing some black jeans. I had on a sweatshirt.
Schaap: Why didn't you have a holster?
Burress: Bad judgment.
Schaap: You had been out that night with Antonio Pierce and Ahmad Bradshaw, to a couple of spots. What role do you think, if any, alcohol played in the shooting?
Burress: I had a drink. I had a couple drinks before, you know, I got to Latin Quarters. And I had one in my hand at the time that the, that the gun went off. It was just careless, you know, just a bad choice, bad decision, you know. To have carried into the place of business was my first mistake.
(After the shooting, Pierce drove Burress to New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center in Manhattan. The Giants had a 10-1 record at the time.)
Schaap: When did you first tell the Giants what had happened?
Burress: Right when it happened.
Schaap: Even before you got to the hospital?
Burress: Yeah. Antonio picked the phone up and, you know, told them what happened. They knew right away.
Schaap: How did they treat you?
Burress: They treated me about as good as they could possibly, you know, treat me and handle the situation, you know, at the time. You know, I had a chance to talk to [Giants co-owner] John Mara, you know, a couple days after it happened and, you know, I told him that I was regretful for what happened, and how sorry I was. And I let him down and my team, and I was just, you know, bringing all that negative attention to a great organization.
(After taking Burress to the hospital, Pierce drove the gun to his home in New Jersey. The next day, Pierce arranged to have the gun returned to Burress, prosecutors said. Prosecutors also sought weapons charges against Pierce, but on Aug. 3, a grand jury decided not to indict him.)
Schaap: What was your reaction when [Antonio Pierce] was cleared of any wrongdoing a few weeks ago?
Burress: He was supposed to. He did nothing wrong. He did what I think what anybody would do is take me to the hospital. What else was he supposed to do?
Schaap: How do you feel about the fact that, you know, your mistake put him through so much?
Burress: I didn't want to involve him in any way. I think he knows that. I think he knows what type of person that I am, you know. He was being a friend and, you know, helping me get to the hospital. That was the only part that he played in it. I didn't want him to be involved in it at all because, I mean, he helped saved my life, so he was supposed to be cleared of everything.
Schaap: What's your relationship with him like now?
Burress: I haven't talked to him, you know, in a while because the whole legal situation that was going on. You know, we weren't to have any contact.
(Burress was indicted on two counts of criminal possession of a weapon and one count of reckless endangerment. Had he been convicted at trial, he would have faced a mandatory minimum sentence of 3½ years in prison.)
Schaap: If you were John Smith and you had been in the Latin Quarter and you shot yourself, don't you think you would have ended up getting the two years also?
Burress: I don't think nobody ever would have heard about it. That's the difference between a John Smith and myself. I was being, I was being responsible and accountable, you know, for what happened. I went to the hospital; I turned the weapon over to the police; I turned myself in. I was taking, I was taking, you know, charge for what I did, you know, I was being accountable. And I thought that me doing the right thing was, you know, was right. It turned out to be what it is today.
Schaap: You've been made fun of by the late-night comics. You were made fun of on "Entourage" this week. . . . What has it been like listening to the jokes and being the butt of all those comments?
Burress: It doesn't bother me. It doesn't bother me at all because, you know, that's society. I mean, those are people, I mean, that's what they're supposed to do. But it doesn't bother me at all because, you know, I know what type of person I am, you know. I mean, have fun with it. Laugh, joke.
(Burress has hired a prison consultant to help him prepare for life behind bars. Burress' lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, said the nine-year NFL veteran will be eligible for release after about 20 months. If that happens, Burress would leave prison in May 2011, a few months shy of his 34th birthday.)
Schaap: How do you think you're going to be able to cope in prison?
Burress: I really don't know what to expect, to be honest with you, you know. I know people that went in and came out and they tell you about it. But as a person, nobody wants to go to prison. Who wants to go to prison? Nobody. Like I said, I got myself into a situation and, you know, I got to deal with the consequences for it. I've been accountable since it happened from day one, you know. I got myself into the situation by, you know, just lack of judgment. I didn't think about the consequences or what it could have been. If I'd have thought about it, I wouldn't have made that decision to take a gun into a nightclub. You know, you just, I wouldn't have made that decision.
Schaap: Sept. 22 you'll be sentenced. You've got four weeks. It's quite possible that you'll be going directly to prison from that court room. What are you doing to fill the hours until then?
Burress: Spend time with my family. I think that will be the toughest thing for me, you know, being away from my family and my son. And, you know, I wake up with it every morning. And, you know, it's going to be an adjustment. I want to be with my wife. She's pregnant; she's due on Thanksgiving Day. I'm having a baby girl. And I won't even be there for that.
Schaap: I know you have a tattoo, and you've had it for a while, that says: "Everything happens for a reason." Why did all this happen?
Burress: I don't know. There has to be some good going to come out of it. But right now, I mean, I can't go any lower than where I'm at right now. So, you know, there has to be better days ahead, you know, for Plaxico Burress.
Schaap: Is there anything else . . . that you think we haven't really discussed that you'd like to talk about?
Burress: . . . I'm no criminal. I'm not an animal. I'm not an animal. I'm a human being. A mistake happened and, you know, I'm going to get through it, you know, day by day. But it doesn't make me any less of a person than anybody else.
David Picker is a producer for "E:60."