Plaxico Burress released from prison

Updated: June 7, 2011, 1:44 PM ET
By Ohm Youngmisuk | ESPNNewYork.com

ROME, N.Y. -- In his first precious moments as a free man again, Plaxico Burress embraced his wife and cradled his two young kids after being released from prison for serving nearly two years on a gun charge.

In the kind of heartfelt emotion that can only come from being away from family for so long, Burress soaked up the reunion with his loved ones. He looked like a giddy kid, even finding a few touching minutes to play with his two dogs.

Burress
AP Photo/Heather AinsworthPlaxico Burress told reporters: "As far as football is concerned, if and when everything gets settled, when they get back on the field, I'll be ready."

"I just want to thank God for bringing me through one of the most trying times in my life," said Burress, who wore an old-school Philadelphia Phillies cap, a black zip-up hoodie and shorts. "It's a beautiful day. It's a beautiful day to be reunited with my family. I want to go home and spend some quality time with them.

"I'd like to thank everybody for their prayers and words of encouragement," Burress continued in his brief time with reporters outside the prison. "I'd like to thank all my fans all around the world for the thousands of letters, for their unwavering support. As far as football is concerned, if and when everything gets settled, when they get back on the field, I'll be ready."

Shortly after walking out of the Oneida Correctional Facility around 9 a.m. ET, Burress' lawyer, Peter Frankel, drove the wide receiver to the nearby Lodge at the Turning Stone Resort-Casino for his emotional reunion with his wife Tiffany, his son Elijah, 4, and daughter Giovanna, 1.

After spending more than an hour at the hotel with his family, Burress -- who was followed by a camera crew that was with the family -- spent a few minutes playing with his two dogs in front of the hotel while an SUV was loaded with luggage.

Burress looked incredibly happy and humbled. He played peek-a-boo with his daughter while she was sitting inside the car and he was standing outside before later hopping into the back seat with his children.

Drew Rosenhaus, Burress' agent, said earlier on Monday morning that his client would travel to his home in South Florida and immediately begin training with other football players to begin his NFL comeback.

Rosenhaus, who jumped into Burress' arms moments after he walked out of the prison, also said Burress isn't ruling out a possible reunion with the New York Giants.

"I wouldn't rule out any team, I wouldn't rule out the Giants, I wouldn't rule out any club," Rosenhaus told reporters. "I really won't talk about specific teams because I don't want to hurt his position. As far as the Giants, my personal opinion is he wouldn't rule them out. I certainly wouldn't.

"We are going to be open to all 32 teams," Rosenhaus added. "Ultimately this will be Plax's decision, not mine. I am here to help him pick the best spot and get the very best contract. And that is what we will do."

Brandon Jacobs, one of Burress' best friends on the Giants, said last Thursday that "there is no chance Plaxico Burress is a New York Giant after he comes home" and that the wide receiver was looking for a fresh start, perhaps with the Philadelphia Eagles.

However, on Monday, Jacobs was a tad hesitant to close the door completely on a Plaxico-Giants sequel but did reiterate that Burress will have options. He mentioned the Eagles, Saints, Rams and Colts as potential options.

"I mean, I think there's a chance the Giants, I mean, I know they probably want him back," Jacobs said in an interview with SiriusXM NFL radio. "But with him having more options to pick from, I don't know how that's going to work out."

Several Giants players want Burress back with the team, which has missed the postseason the last two years without him. Coach Tom Coughlin has said that there hasn't been much discussion about a possible reunion.

"First of all what I can say about (Burress being released) is I am happy that he is home with his family," Giants general manager Jerry Reese said on the Stephen A. Smith show on 1050 ESPN New York. "And that's really about all I can say, you know, he is a free agent and I am not at liberty to talk about free agents - Plaxico or any other free agent at this time. I am just happy that he is home with his family."

Former Giants teammate Osi Umenyiora told ESPN in a "SportsCenter" interview on Monday that Burress looked like he was in "tremendous shape" when he visited the receiver in prison.

"I think he'll be able to make an impact immediately," he said. "A guy with that kind of physical ability and that kind of talent ... All you have to do is throw him the ball and he'll be able to make the same kind of plays he was able to make before."

At a quick glance, Burress, who will turn 34 in August, appeared to be in good shape. Rosenhaus said Burress did all he could to stay in shape while in prison.

"He's been very strong," Rosenhaus said. "He did a lot better than I would have. No question worked out, maintained a very positive attitude, always driven to get back to the NFL, be with his family again. As well as you could for 21 months of incarceration.

"Running, staying in shape, sprints, jogging, lifting weights, as much as you can do in a facility like this," Rosenhaus added. "Running routes, didn't have a quarterback here unfortunately. But he did very well -- push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups, a lot of core strength, as much as you can imagine in this type of environment."

Burress will become a free agent once the lockout ends and free agency begins. Rosenhaus believes there will be a strong interest in his client. Teams like the New York Jets, St. Louis Rams, Washington Redskins and Eagles could be interested in the 6-foot-5 receiver, who caught the game-winning touchdown in the Giants' 17-14 Super Bowl victory over the New England Patriots during the 2007 season.

I wouldn't rule out any team, I wouldn't rule out the Giants, I wouldn't rule out any club.

-- Agent Drew Rosenhaus

"Before the lockout started and during that very brief window, right around the time of the draft, the feedback was excellent," said Rosenhaus, who along with all other agents is not allowed to talk to teams until the lockout is lifted. "Plaxico is going to be a top free agent, there are going to be multiple teams interested in signing him. I expect him to get a good contract, I expect him to absolutely be playing. I think he'll be coveted. He'll be one of our top free agents."

Burress has not played football since late November in 2008 when a handgun that was tucked in his sweatpants slipped from his waistband and went off as he tried to grab the gun while in a New York City nightclub. Burress shot himself in the thigh. Nearly a year later, he entered prison to serve his sentence in September of 2009.

Burress was released about three months early for good behavior.

Because he was a high-profile inmate, he was placed in a protective custody unit at the prison, which has 930 inmates, 20 in protective custody. While in prison, he completed an aggression management program and worked as a lawn and grounds laborer, according the state's Department of Correctional Services.

Burress violated prison rules and regulations three times: He lied to a guard about having permission to use the phone; gave another inmate a pair of black and silver sneakers that were deemed contraband; and had too many cassette tapes and an unauthorized extra pillow in his "filthy" cell.

Burress will be on parole for two years. He has to get and keep a job, undergo substance abuse testing, obey any curfew established by his Florida parole officer, support his family and undergo any anger counseling or other conditions required by his parole officer.

"I think he's learned an awful lot," Rosenhaus said. "He knows that he obviously made a mistake and certainly the maturation from being in this type of environment for so many months to reflect on your life and the things you might do differently. To miss two NFL seasons in the prime of your career, to not be with your family, most importantly, to lose out on millions and millions of dollars -- these are things that have forced him certainly to evaluate his life and we all would become a better person."

It didn't take long for friends and former teammates to transmit their good wishes.

In response to a tweet that said: 'Just In!. Plaxico Burress Just Released from Jail!" former Giants star Michael Strahan responded: "About time!!"

Former Giants linebacker (and current ESPN NFL analyst) Antonio Pierce, who was with Burress the night his life unraveled, tweeted the following a couple of hours before Burress was released: "17.. Time well over due.. Great teammate, friend, person and better yet Man. Always a Champ.. Only 1 way to go ... Back to the TOP."

Miami Heat stars LeBron James and Dwyane Wade also commented.

James tweeted: "Welcome home Plaxico! Best of luck in the near future both on and off the field. #17 Jersey coming to a city near u."

Wade, who is from Chicago, tweeted what many Bears fans likely are thinking.

"1st I'm happy for Plaxico Burress that he can b reunite with his love 1s that I'm sure he missed more than football .. but as a Bears fan i would love to c him in a Bears uniform," Wade wrote.

Ohm Youngmisuk covers the Giants for ESPNNewYork.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

Ohm Youngmisuk has covered the Giants, Jets and the NFL since 2006. Prior to that, he covered the Nets, Knicks and the NBA for nearly a decade. He joined ESPNNewYork.com after working at the New York Daily News for almost 12 years and is a graduate of Michigan State University.
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