- Sal Paolantonio, SportsCenter correspondent / NFL reporter
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With 10 days to go before a critical appearance in Manhattan criminal court, the attorney for Plaxico Burress is working feverishly behind the scenes to find a negotiated settlement that would allow Burress to play football in 2009 -- either by reaching a plea deal with minimal jail time or by postponing a possible trial until after the 2009 NFL season with the hopes of playing this fall, a source with knowledge of the case said Friday.
"Right now, everything is speculation, but I will know more on Monday," Burress' lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, said Friday.
After months of discussions with the Manhattan district attorney's office, Brafman thus far has failed to reach a plea agreement on the felony weapons charges against Burress, primarily because the former New York Giants wide receiver has been adamant about avoiding jail time, according to sources with knowledge of the case.
Any jail time no doubt would be followed up by a visit to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who could impose a penalty, including a suspension, under the league's personal conduct policy.
One way to avoid all that, at least this year, is to try to get the trial postponed to early 2010, allowing Burress to perhaps play football in the coming season.
But that possible plan has three hurdles:
• The district attorney's office would have to agree. So far, sources say, the DA's office is determined not to allow Burress to get any special treatment. A spokesman for the Manhattan district attorney declined to comment.
"Timewise, it is not an unusual delay -- the purpose of the delay is unusual," said John M. Caher, director of public information for the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services.
• The Manhattan criminal court judge hearing the case June 15 would have to approve the deal.
• Goodell would have to decide not to punish Burress in the interim.
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said Friday that, in the event of a trial postponement, Goodell has not decided what to do.
"Whether the personal conduct policy would be applied in that case hasn't been determined, but it hasn't been ruled out," Aiello said.
He said Burress, who was released by the Giants on April 3, is a free agent. "A team can sign him," but it's up to the commissioner whether Burress can play, Aiello said.
Under the personal conduct policy, the commissioner has broad powers to impose a penalty "even when the conduct itself does not result in the conviction of a crime," according to the personal conduct policy.
Three teams are believed to be serious enough about considering Burress for the 2009 season that they have contacted his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, to inquire about his legal status: the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Chicago Bears and the New York Jets.
After accidentally shooting himself in a Manhattan nightclub Nov. 29, Burress was arraigned Dec. 1 on two counts of second-degree criminal possession of a loaded and unlicensed weapon, a Glock semi-automatic pistol, charges that carry a mandatory minimum jail sentence of 3½ years.
The most common way to avoid the mandatory minimum is to get the charge lowered to third-degree possession. But last year in New York City, nearly 80 percent of those convicted of a third-degree charge still ended up behind bars, according to the state Division of Criminal Justice Services. Of those people who went to jail, 41 percent ended up serving at least a year's time.
Sal Paolantonio is ESPN's bureau reporter based in Philadelphia.
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