Wednesday, August 17, 2011
Updated: August 18, 10:35 AM ET
Plaxico Burress practices with Jets
By Rich Cimini
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Plaxico Burress' days of R & R are over -- rust and rehab, that is.
After more than two years away from football, and another two weeks of treatment for a sprained ankle, Burress participated Wednesday in his first full practice session since signing with the New York Jets.
Burress participated in 12 of 21 first-team reps, making it through the 2-hour, 45-minute practice with no apparent setbacks -- and his confidence level at a pre-prison level. He said he still considers himself one of the best wide receivers in the NFL.
"I know what I'm capable of doing. ... I've been away for two years," he said after practice. "They use that. I just turned 34, and all those things. None of those things matter. I believe I'm still one of the best receivers competing and I'm not going to lose that mindset. My mindset is to go out and dominate one-on-ones."
Until Wednesday, Burress had participated in only four team reps, limited by an ankle injury that was slow to heal. Finally, the Jets decided to shut him down for a few days, not taking him to Houston for Monday night's preseason opener.
The strategy seemed to work, as Burress proclaimed himself healthy, saying he was able to run and cut with no problems. The only problem, according to coach Rex Ryan, was that Burress didn't see more action. At times, he was a decoy or used on the backside of the play. Other times, he was blanketed by Darrelle Revis or Antonio Cromartie.
"I wish we got him the ball a few more times," Ryan said, smiling -- sort of. "I was like you guys: He's out there, let's throw it to him."
Quarterback Mark Sanchez threw only one pass to Burress, a 5-yard hitch that he turned into a first down on a third-and-7 play.
"I've run a few of those in my day," said Burress, who missed the 2009 and 2010 seasons while serving time for illegal weapons possession.
In one-on-one drills, Burress made a one-handed, circus catch over a rookie cornerback named Julian Posey. Burress fell to the ground, coming up with a grass stain on his left shoulder. Considering everything he has experienced, it had to be a special moment.
The moments will keep coming for Burress. On Sunday night, he's expected to make his Jets debut against the Cincinnati Bengals. It will come at the New Meadowlands Stadium, which used to be Giants Stadium, where he enjoyed so many memorable days before accidentally shooting himself in the thigh at a Manhattan nightclub in November 2008.
Ryan said there's "no question" that Burress will suit up. To which Burress remarked, "I don't see why I shouldn't be full-go."
The only thing Burress didn't do Wednesday was the two-minute drill at the end of practice, but the entire starting receiving corps sat out. Ryan wanted to give some reps to the backups.
The Jets signed Burress to a one-year, $3 million contract to replace Braylon Edwards, who eventually left via free agency to sign with the San Francisco 49ers. They cut the popular Jerricho Cotchery and replaced him with Derrick Mason, giving the Jets a potentially formidable 1-2-3 punch with Santonio Holmes.
"From a receiving standpoint," Burress said, "we have three guys who can pretty much do it all."
Now the question becomes, can three accomplished wideouts -- all of whom have been the No. 1 receiver in the past -- co-exist with each other? That will be vital to the Jets' success on offense.
The old Denver Broncos had the Three Amigos. Will the Jets have the Three Egos?
"We all want to win a championship and when you want to win a championship, don't check your ego at the door, leave it at home," said Mason, who doesn't anticipate any problems.
Mason, for one, said he has to "do a better job of putting my needs aside." In the past, his focus was to produce big numbers. That, he said, no longer is a priority because "I've done it all and I've seen it all." The ring is the thing, as far as he's concerned.
Burress won a Super Bowl ring with the Giants, but he, too, claimed to be on board with the team approach. For now, he's glad to be finished with his rehab. Burress said he was blown away by the intensity of the rehab program set up by the team's medical staff. He talked about walking around with a "frozen ankle."
Barring a setback, Burress will get to show the world Sunday night what he believes in his heart -- that he still can be a premier player.
"It's one of those days," he said, "that I've been waiting a long time for."
Rich Cimini covers the Jets for ESPNNewYork.com.