Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Updated: July 28, 7:51 PM ET
Plaxico Burress to Giants, Steelers?
By Chris Mortensen
It appears likely that Plaxico Burress will be playing for one of his two former teams, the New York Giants or the Pittsburgh Steelers, according to team and league sources.
After a dinner with Giants coach Tom Coughlin on Friday night, Burress plans to fly to Pittsburgh to meet with coach Mike Tomlin, sources said.
Sources believe only a productive, fence-mending meeting between Burress and Coughlin stands between the wide receiver rejoining the Giants and potentially making an incentive-laced $10 million over two years.
However, Tomlin expects to make his own strong sales pitch for Burress to join the Steelers, who made him a first-round draft choice out of Michigan State in 2000, sources added.
The Philadelphia Eagles and New York Jets also have expressed varying degrees of interest in Burress, according to sources.
Burress traveled to New York on Tuesday night via a private jet courtesy of billionaire Seth Bernstein, who is serving as an unofficial broker between the wide receiver and the Giants, sources said. Bernstein is CEO of Empower Software Solutions and is a friend of Giants co-owner Steve Tisch.
Burress had hoped to meet with Couglin on Wednesday, but NFL spokesman Greg Aiello told ESPNNewYork.com that the new league rules do not allow free agents to meet with teams, even at a neutral site, until the free-agent signing period begins at 6 p.m. ET Friday.
The New York Post reported Wednesday that Burress will fly back to Florida to resume training.
Bernstein made an independent pitch Tuesday night to Burress and also to Burress' former teammate, Michael Strahan, who has said he believes a return to the Giants would be too great of a distraction for the team and the player. By the end of the evening, sources say Bernstein had made a persuasive case for the reunion. The Giants released Burress in April 2009 after a nightclub gun incident late in the 2008 season led to a self-inflicted leg wound and the receiver's imprisonment.
The Giants have talked of paying Burress in the range of $10.5 million over two years -- approximately 60 percent in salary and bonuses, with the balance to be earned on playing-time and performance incentives. Terms remain negotiable and the second year may be an option year, sources said.
While Burress has been contrite since his release from jail, he has had harsh words about his prior relationship with Coughlin. Sources say Bernstein convinced Burress that Coughlin is the right coach and the Giants are the right organization for the receiver's re-entry into the NFL. Coughlin fined Burress repeatedly for team rules violations.
Burress also frustrated others within the organization, including quarterabck Eli Manning, for his failure to practice on a regular basis, but his big-game performances were lauded by all when the Giants won the Super Bowl in 2007.
Coughlin also has stated that his desire is for Burress to grow as a husband, father and community man now that he has been released from jail.
Coughlin and Burress were unavailable for comment. Attempts to reach Drew Rosenhaus, Burress' agent, were unsuccessful.
One Giant said Wednesday that he would love to see Burress back in blue.
"It'll be another match made in heaven," defensive end Justin Tuck said.
"I know this team would love to see him back," Tuck said, adding that he had spoken to Burress. "I don't see there being any other place for him to be (rather) than here in New York. But he has to do what's best for him and his family, and that's what I'd advise him to do."
Tuck hopes Coughlin and Burress can work out their differences.
"I can't speak for Plax or Tom, but it's been well-documented that they have bumped heads in the past, so hopefully a little time apart can rekindle that love that they shared for each other," he said.
Chris Mortensen is a senior NFL analyst for ESPN. Information from ESPNNewYork.com's Mike Mazzeo was used in this report.