Burress, Giants pick up where they left off
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- New York Giants wide receiver Plaxico Burress had resigned himself Thursday afternoon to not getting a new contract done before the regular season, which seemed like a safe bet because kickoff was four hours away. But when he pulled into the players' parking lot at Giants Stadium, agent Drew Rosenhaus was waiting for him.
In between shooting YouTube videos for other clients, Rosenhaus flew into New York and made a final push for a new contract. He and Burress walked up to Giants GM Jerry Reese's office and finalized a five-year, $35 million contract, which gives him $11 million in the first year.
By 4:30 p.m., Burress was on the practice field with quarterback Eli Manning, and by halftime, they'd pretty much carved up a Redskins defense that may or may not have included Jason Taylor -- depending on whom you talk to.
When I stopped by Manning's locker moments after the Giants defeated the Redskins, 16-7, he said Burress' contract was news to him.
"I didn't know anything about it," said Manning. "He got a new contract?"
Manning had been frustrated by Burress' extended absence during training camp because he thought they needed to work together, but Thursday they picked up right where they left off in Super Bowl XLII. On the first drive, Manning completed throws of 30, 19 and 11 yards to Burress, who said he never felt any pain in his ankle.
After spending part of training camp working on throwing the deep ball, Manning completed the 30-yard pass to Burress on the fifth play of the game. It helped that Redskins safety LaRon Landry was in a different ZIP code, but it was still a good sign for the Giants. Burress finished with 10 catches for 133 yards. Who knows what he could do if he mixed in a practice or two during the regular season?
Burress said after the game that he would've had the same performance whether or not he received a new contract, but just to be safe, the Giants consummated the deal. You might recall that Burress joined his former teammate and close friend Jeremy Shockey in criticizing Giants management during the offseason, but after showing up for training camp, Burress changed his tune. Rosenhaus, who represents both players, said the situations were completely different.
"If the team is making a good-faith effort, a good agent has to get it done," Rosenhaus said while watching the second half from the media lounge. "Those two situations were completely unrelated. I always thought we could get a deal done with Plaxico. And it looks like the Giants made a good decision."
That's why Rosenhaus made four trips to Albany, N.Y., during training camp. He sensed that he and Reese could find common ground, and on Thursday afternoon, it finally happened. For the record, Rosenhaus said he's never had a contract come down to the wire like this one.
Reese flashed a sly grin when I asked him what took so long to reach a deal.
"I always said I was hopeful," he said. "But I was never worried about anything affecting Plaxico's performance. When the lights come on, he's always ready to go."
The Redskins' secondary, playing without injured cornerback Shawn Springs, was no match for Burress, who hadn't been tackled since the Super Bowl. He spent about 40 minutes icing his ankle after the game before speaking to a large group of reporters at his locker. He seemed almost hurt by the suggestion that the contract might've played a role in his performance Thursday.
"I wasn't really expecting for it to get done," he said. "But I wasn't going to let that stop me. I would've had the same results even if it wasn't done."
Around the corner, second-year receiver Steve Smith said Burress mentioned something to him about the contract in the fourth quarter. Recently, Burress bought Smith some Air Jordans he'd been wanting, but he hounded him about paying him back the $200.
"I'm thrilled for him because he deserves it," Smith said. "And now I need him to throw me a couple of dollars."
Burress has now come up big in two consecutive season openers. He caught eight passes for 144 yards and three touchdowns against the Cowboys at the start of last season. Some of the players admitted to getting caught up in the pregame ceremony that featured a giant replica of the Lombardi Trophy at midfield, but Burress wasn't fazed.
"I wasn't paying any attention to it," he said before using a colorful description about conserving energy.
At some point this summer, Burress said, he stopped worrying about his contract. He knew there would be skeptics when he couldn't return to the field during training camp, but it never affected the negotiating process.
"When a player tells me he's hurt, I take him at face value," said Reese. "So that was never an issue."
The Giants have apparently included some workout incentives in Burress' new contract, but it seems sort of pointless. The more practice he misses, the better he seems to play.