Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Updated: November 23, 11:05 AM ET
Plaxico Burress allowed to miss practice
By Mike Mazzeo
Special to ESPNNewYork.com
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- New York Jets wide receiver Plaxico Burress returned from his hometown charity trip in Virginia Beach a day early, but did not practice on Tuesday because he was attending another charity function at Central Park East Middle School in East Harlem.
Burress, who had been given two personal days by coach Rex Ryan a few months ago, arrived at the Jets' practice facility on Tuesday afternoon for meetings and film study. The 34-year-old veteran will need to get up to speed in a hurry, because the Jets have a crucial AFC East matchup against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday.
"I came back in [Monday night]. I wasn't supposed to come back until [Tuesday], but I came back [Monday night] and tried to catch up as much as I could going into this week," Burress said. "Even though it's a big game they let me go out and try to fulfill my obligations, so I just tried to come back and do as much as I can for the rest of the week."
Ryan gave Burress the personal days well in advance, without realizing this week was an odd week. The Jets -- like all other NFL teams -- usually have Tuesday off, but because of Thanksgiving, Ryan changed the schedule to allow his players to spend time with their families and friends on Thursday. He had already told Burress he could fulfill his obligations, though, and did not want to renege on his promise.
"I made this decision. It's a personal thing," Ryan said. "But I made a decision several months ago to give him the time off. When I reworked the schedule, he never asked me one way or the other. I was not going to go back on my word. When I give a player my word that he can do some things or whatever, then so be it."
A Jets' spokesman said Burress's charity work was unrelated to his probation on illegal weapon possession charges, which caused him to spend almost two years of his life in prison.
Ryan doesn't think the time off will have a negative impact on Burress's preparation this week.
"We are familiar with this opponent," Ryan said. "He'll come back in. This is not going to hurt him. It's not setting him back, but this is something that I agreed upon before and told him that I wanted him to take it, so that's what it is."
Burress was appreciative of Ryan's willingness to let him leave the team in pursuit of his philanthropic endeavors.
"I think it just says a lot about him and the organization letting me go out and fulfill my obligations, because I would've felt horrible if I couldn't," Burress said. "It's just refreshing to be able to go down there and see the smiles on everyone's faces."
Burress took his wife and two children down to his old Virginia Beach neighborhood to visit with kids at a local high school and hand out Thanksgiving turkeys to low-income families in the area. He then headed to East Harlem to recognize and reward the top 17 students at Central Park East Middle School. Those students will be attendance at the Jets-Bills game on Sunday at MetLife Stadium. Burress also donated 20 computers to the school.
"It's something I've been doing for the last nine years," Burress said. "Obviously, I wasn't around to be present the past two years, but my family and friends have been doing a great job keeping it going. It was a special day for me to be back there with those people and with those families."
Burress felt his teammates would understand why he left -- even if it was during a week that has to be considered a must-win given where they are in the playoff race.
"I think so," Burress said. "They know I'm a hard worker."
Quarterback Mark Sanchez isn't concerned.
"I think he has a short week, but he's a pro," Sanchez said. "He'll prepare and I expect him to be ready and whatever that takes, if we're doing a little extra after practice, watching some more film together, whatever it is, we'll get him ready to play and he'll do well."
Burress leads the Jets with six touchdown catches, but he has only 30 catches in 68 targets -- the worst ratio on the team.
Mike Mazzeo is a frequent contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.