- Ohm Youngmisuk, ESPN Staff Writer
- 0 Shares
NEW YORK -- Plaxico Burress is open to all possibilities when it comes to where he will play next, but he certainly sounded like a man who will not be reunited with Tom Coughlin.
In an in-depth, one-hour interview with ESPN's Stephen A. Smith, Burress discussed his difficult relationship with the New York Giants head coach, how intrigued he is by the possibility of helping the New York Jets win a Super Bowl and his relationship with quarterback Eli Manning among numerous subjects.
"My situation in New York, me and my coach had an ambivalent relationship to say the least," Burress said at the National Urban League headquarters where he held a press conference to promote gun safety. "Some things that I didn't agree with, with the way he went about things. And the only way to show my way was to just rebel. Is that who I am? No."
"That was one of the biggest problems when I left Pittsburgh when I came here," Burress continued. "I had a relationship with Bill Cowher inside of football and outside of football. He always had an open-door policy to where you could come talk to him or tell him what was on your mind. When that was taken away from me, I kind of felt it was like: I'm the coach, you are the player. It doesn't matter what you have to say. You just do what I tell you to do."
"This is not college," he added. "This is professional sports. If you can't sit down and go talk to a man that you are busting your tail for, not even have the respect for anything that you have to say, like I said, the only thing I knew then was to rebel."
Burress, who will turn 34 in August, will become a free agent once the lockout ends. He has not played football since 2008 when he accidentally shot himself in the thigh after carrying an unlicensed gun into a Manhattan night club. He was just released from prison last week after serving 20 months.
While numerous Giants say they want Burress back, the wide receiver who caught the game-winning touchdown in the Super Bowl to defeat the New England Patriots during the 2007 season for the Giants did not sound like he was eager for a Giants encore.
"I just believe that sometimes I took things for granted," Burress said of his time with the Giants. "Now I am in a better place mentally and just happy. I don't really think I was in a happy place then. I was just in a place to where I didn't like to go to work during the week but I just love to play on Sundays. And a lot of that had to do with the relationship that (Coughlin and I) had. I just want to go somewhere that is refreshing and be happy to be there and it's my second coming."
Coughlin was at a Giants golf event in Westchester and spoke to reporters earlier on Monday afternoon.
"What I am saying is I wish Plaxico and his family nothing but the best," Coughlin said, according to the Newark Star-Ledger. "I would hope some form of normalcy would come back to their lives. I mean, he had a child born when he was incarcerated. Those things, I can't imagine what his wife went through.
"But I hope they have a chance for normalcy to return to their lives and Plaxico can be reacquainted with his kids, and I'm sincere. As to the rest of it, you never say never (about a return to the Giants). But we have not talked about it."
Burress said he is open to all teams but did say that the idea of winning a Super Bowl in New York again -- with the Jets -- is enticing.
"It's been thought about," Burress said when pressed on the idea of joining the Jets. "I am not going to sit here and front. For me to go to one side to the other side and win a championship in the same (city), how many people have done that? And do I have the capability to lead a team to a championship? Without question."
Burress did not rule out the possibility of returning to the Giants, although the odds appear to be slim at best. But he shed light on a frosty relationship with Coughlin and disputed a report that he was fined between 40 to 50 times for violating team rules such as being late to meetings.
"That is inaccurate," Burress said. "I missed a few meetings. There is no way possible. There is no way I missed 40 or 50 meetings in the four years I was there."
He also said he was not fined $500,000 or more during his time under Coughlin.
"For somebody that has been fined half a million to a million dollars, that's absurd," Burress said. "You would get to a point to get in line somewhere if it ever got to that point. But that is not the case. Whoever gave you that information is just blowing a bunch of smoke."
Burress said that while he was in prison, former teammates like Brandon Jacobs, Osi Umenyiora, David Tyree, Michael Strahan, Gibril Wilson and Amani Toomer visited him. Steve Tisch, Giants chairman and executive vice president, also remained close to Burress and paid a visit.
Burress says Coughlin did not make the trip upstate to the Oneida Correctional Facility.
"There's a few people that I really didn't expect to come visit me," Burress said.
The 6-foot-5 receiver did say he would have liked to have seen Manning while he was in prison. But he only had positive things to say about his old quarterback.
"We had a pretty good relationship while I was there," Burress said of Manning. "It was more work. I have always been a supporter of him. It was always a working relationship. When we were playing together, we were the best duo in football. You can't take that away from us. Nobody scored more touchdowns in that time frame that I was there in the four years that we were there."
"Would I have liked him to come see me? Yeah," he added. "But I understand, he is a family man. He just had a baby. Congratulations."
Burress said that even while in prison, he has noticed how Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez seems to be more popular than Manning.
"Eli has won a championship and the crazy thing about it is it is almost that Mark Sanchez gets more pub than the world champion quarterback which is crazy," Burress said. "And I'm looking at it from afar. The man went out and led the organization to a Super Bowl but for some reason, I guess Mark Sanchez is supposed to be better than the guy that has already won one."
Burress does believe he can help Sanchez, or any other quarterback, the way he helped Manning. He says he needed the time off for his various injuries to heal. He also believes he is a more mature and humble player after experiencing what he has gone through.
"You got guys (in there) that are never going home," Burress said of his fellow inmates. "Rapists, murderers, pedophiles, everything that is associated with jail and crime, I was there with them. There were 22 or 23 of us guys on a unit and I looked at myself and my situation and I was saying, am I really here for what happened to me?
"Looking at what some of those guys were in there for, I didn't think I deserved to be there but at the same time I was looking at it like, I am going home. Some of these guys are not going home."
Burress said he was carrying an unlicensed gun prior to accidentally shooting himself because he feared for the safety of him and his family. Not long before Burress carried his gun into a night club, teammate Steve Smith was robbed at gunpoint in front of his home in Clifton, N.J.
"I have professional friends that have been robbed at gunpoint in front of their house, people breaking into their house, tying them up, all kinds of crazy things," Burress said. "When you hear things like that you say that could have been me. So you take the initiative to protect yourself and that was the reason why I chose to carry a gun."
"I've had my house broken into twice," Burress added. "It is not a good feeling. You feel violated. People calling your phone and saying certain things or what have you. Those are some of the things I have never talked about, some clown may get your phone number, threaten you. I have a wife and two kids."
With Tony Dungy acting as his mentor, Burress teamed up with the Brady Center and the National Urban League to talk to youth about gun awareness and staying away from guns on Monday.
Burress wants to make the most of his new life and part of that next step will be to find a new team. The Philadelphia Eagles, St. Louis Rams, Washington Redskins and Jets have all been mentioned as potential possibilities.
Besides picking what is best for his family and joining a contender, Burress will also consider how he will mesh with potential new head coaches. He hopes to sit down with the head coach of a team that is considering him and see if they are a good match.
"First of all, I wouldn't make a decision to put myself in a situation to play for anybody that I would have a problem playing for," Burress said. "I will sit down and talk to the person and look the man in the eyes and let him know what I am all about. That is what relationships are all about and how they evolve is to get to know the person."
Burress said he lost $12 million sitting in a prison cell for the past two seasons and not playing football. But he believes what's much more valuable is the lesson he has learned and the person he has become.
"To be honest, I would rather be in the place that I am at right now than have $12 million," he said. "Mentally, physically and spiritually, I'd rather be this person that I am today than to have that $12 million. That is just being real. I've had some missteps and everything that has happened to me I pretty much brought it on myself."
Burress has pronounced himself healthy both physically and mentally now. Once the lockout ends, Jets coach Rex Ryan may want to give a certain receiver a call.
"Of course they are appealing," Burress said of the Jets while reiterating that he is open to all teams. "Ever since I came to New York, the fans have embraced me. It is a great city and a great town. It will always be a special place to me regardless of what happens. I can't say the Jets or Philly or anywhere of that nature but I am going to make a decision that is best for me and my family. It may not be the best team but put yourself as a piece to the puzzle and say what's the best chance I have to win a championship."
Whichever team signs Burress for next season will be getting a Super Bowl-winning receiver who feels fresh and motivated.
"The way I look at it, I was out there playing on one leg, half a shoulder, and one knee," Burress said of his last two seasons with the Giants in 2007 and 2008. "And I was basically out there dominating without even practicing (due to injuries). I have had a chance to heal up. It feels good to run with no pain and to get that spring back. It is going to be exciting. I think everybody is going to be in for a rude awakening."
Ohm Youngmisuk covers the Giants for ESPNNewYork.com.