Hearing adjourned until September
NEW YORK -- Former New York Giants wide receiver Plaxico Burress is negotiating with several NFL teams to return to pro football this season after a judge delayed his trial Monday on gun possession charges.
Burress made a brief appearance in court Monday, accompanied by his wife and attorney Benjamin Brafman. Judge Felicia Mennin adjourned the case until Sept. 23.
Outside court Monday, Brafman said it was "inconceivable" that Burress would face trial on the charge before 2010, said several teams were trying to sign his client, and "physically he's in the best shape of his life. He's ready to play."
Burress shot himself in the thigh Nov. 29 in a Manhattan nightclub. He was charged with criminal possession of a weapon and faces up to 3½ years in prison. Burress has pleaded not guilty and is free on $100,000 bail.
Burress caught the game-winning touchdown for the Giants in the 2008 Super Bowl. He is a free agent after the team released him April 3.
Brafman also said he didn't think the case would be resolved through a plea agreement, that prosecutors would take it to a grand jury, and that Burress would plead not guilty if the case went to trial.
"There is not a victim in this case except Plaxico Burress," he said.
While Burress is free to sign with any team, the unresolved legal matter could make teams reluctant to add him. In addition, even if he ultimately does not serve jail time on the weapons charge -- most first-time offenders in similar cases in New York City do not -- he could face disciplinary action by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell under the league's personal conduct policy.
But veteran 6-foot-5 receivers with a proven ability to stretch a defense are a valuable commodity in the NFL. The New York Jets acknowledged publicly they had contacted Burress' agent, Drew Rosenhaus, to inquire about him before the NFL draft in April.
On Sunday, Rosenhaus told WSVN-TV in Miami he's optimistic Burress "will be able to play unobstructed" this year. Rosenhaus is hopeful that Goodell will not suspend the former Giants star, noting he was suspended for four games by the Giants last season.
"In talking to [Brafman], his feeling is that a trial is not going to take place until after the season," Rosenhaus said. "He believes that after all these delays -- again, Plax hasn't been indicted yet, either -- it's going to be a very lengthy process to get to trial, and that will take place after the season.
Regarding NFL policy ...
The key to the possible suspension of Plaxico Burress (right) is a paragraph on the second page of the NFL's four-page "Personal Conduct Policy 2008." It states, "a first offense will generally not result in discipline until there has been a disposition of the proceeding." Disposition is defined elsewhere in the policy as a conviction or an admission of guilt in a plea bargain. There is only one exception to this provision -- "bodily injury."
The bodily injury exception does not apply to Burress' self-inflicted injury. If commissioner Roger Goodell suspends Burress, this language is enough for the union to prevail in a grievance.
There will be a revised personal conduct policy for 2009, but this is the policy that applies to Burress. In the new version of the policy, it can be expected that Goodell will add language that would allow him to suspend Burress before the receiver's trial.-- Lester Munson, ESPN.com
"Our hope is, based on this information, that he will be able to play unobstructed this year, without having a trial, and he can get a season in and then deal with the legal issues after the season. This is the hope, and this what I'm communicating to the rest of the NFL teams."
But an NFL spokesman, asked about Rosenhaus' comments, said the league still reserves the right to suspend Burress, 1050 ESPN New York's Andrew Marchand reported.
"We are not going to speculate on that," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said. "We reserve the right to act accordingly at the appropriate time."
With the criminal case dragging on at least three more months and possibly longer, establishing Burress' value may be a challenge for interested teams.
The Giants had signed Burress to a five-year, $35 million contract extension in September. The team later withheld $1 million after the shooting and the NFL Players Association filed a grievance on Burress' behalf. A special master ruled that the Giants had to pay Burress because the money was a signing bonus he earned upon agreeing to the contract extension and could not be withheld for future conduct.
Burress has 505 career receptions for 7,845 yards and 55 touchdowns in nine seasons with the Giants and Pittsburgh Steelers.
ESPN.com's Tim Graham, Andrew Marchand of 1050 ESPN New York and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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