Plaxico Burress talks Giants, prison

Updated: September 10, 2011, 3:26 AM ET
By Mike Mazzeo | Special to ESPNNewYork.com

Things just got even more personal between Plaxico Burress and his former team.

In an interview with Men's Journal conducted after his release from prison in June, Burress blasts New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin and quarterback Eli Manning, among others in and around the organization.

"After my situation happened, I turned on the TV, and the first words out his mouth was 'sad and disappointing,' " Burress said, according to the Men's Journal article, when asked about Coughlin's reaction after Burress accidentally shot himself in the leg at a New York City nightclub in November 2008.

"I'm like, forget support -- how about some concern? I did just have a bullet in my leg. And then I sat in his office, and he pushed back his chair and goes, 'I'm glad you didn't kill anybody!' Man, we're paid too much to be treated like kids. He doesn't realize that we're grown men and actually have kids of our own."

Burress' tumultuous relationship with Coughlin has been well-documented, with the two disagreeing and clashing frequently.

"He's not a real positive coach," Burress told Men's Journal for the article that hits newsstands Sept. 16. "You look around the league, the Raheem Morrises and Rex Ryans -- when their player makes a mistake, they take 'em to the side and say, 'We'll get 'em next time.' But Coughlin's on the sideline going crazy, man. I can't remember one time when he tried to talk a player through not having a day he was having."

Coughlin was asked Friday if he was aware of any of Burress' comments.

"No, I'm not and I'm really not all that concerned," he said. "I'm sure it was lots of grandiose statements. I don't know anything about that but I'm really not interested in it, either."

In the article, Burress said he always stood behind Manning, but those feelings soured when the quarterback failed to visit Burress during his nearly two-year prison stint after pleading guilty to one count of attempted criminal possession of a weapon.

"I was always his biggest supporter, even days he wasn't on, 'cause I could sense he didn't have thick skin," Burress said. "Then I went away, and I thought he would come see me, but nothing, not a letter, in two years. I don't want to say it was a slap in the face, but I thought our relationship was better than that."

When Burress, 34, met with Giants brass in July, Manning was in meetings and did not speak with Burress. Manning also told the media that he would not lobby management for the receiver's return.

Manning has acknowledged that he didn't visit Burress in prison.

"I thought about (visiting Burress) a few times," he said. "It just never worked out. Just one of those deals. As soon as he got out, called him a few weeks after and just talked to him for a little bit. It sounded like he learned a lot and it changed his life."

Burress agrees with that. He went to prison and left behind a toddler son and pregnant wife. He cried looking at pictures of his son that his wife sent.

"I told her, 'Stop sending pictures because they eat me up so much.' Me and her were arguing on the phone each day, 'cause I was locked down in a lot of pain, and she's in pain about her life outside, being alone with a kid and seven months pregnant," Burress told Men's Journal. "Then at chow, these white officers are yelling, 'You black mother------! You stupid f------ dumbass: You're finished!' It was the lowest point ever in my life."

Burress had been upset with New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, who was a driving force in making sure Burress, despite his celebrity status, would be made an example of after he shot himself.

"The way Bloomberg treated me was totally wrong, stacked those charges so high I had to go to jail," Burress said.

In jail, "they treated me like a f------ axe murderer. 23-hour lockdown, noncontact visiting, and only a Bible to read," Burress said. "Nobody deserves to live like that, man."

Burress told the magazine he received hate mail from several fans.

"I was a human pincushion; they were like, 'Yeah, we finally got you, mother------'" he said. "On the cover of the New York Post, it said 'GIANT IDIOT!' and I'm thinking, 'Damn, I went and gave 'em what they wanted. I'm just another gun-toting, famous black athlete.' "

Burress' response to fans who took pleasure in his pain?

"What are you doing now?" he said. "You still mad at your job? You still angry about your life? 'Cause I'm back living my life and enjoying my family while you're still doing the same thing."

In prison, though, Burress started to realize that he wasn't just a victim, that he had chosen to take the gun into the club and "changed my life." He knew he had to do things differently.

"I was an edge-goer at times, running the streets and living life and not spending time with my family," he told the magazine. "Or taking risks and not thinking about the consequences, which gave them the chance to take me down."

He forever will be remembered by Giants' fans and the organization after making the game-winning catch in the 17-14 victory over the undefeated New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII, but Burress still carries a lot of resentment, too much to re-sign, even though he reached out to the team when he was released from prison.

He said he was even treated poorly that Super Bowl season because he couldn't practice due to right ankle and left knee injuries.

"It was hurtful that they didn't have the courage (after the season) to admit they told me not to practice all year," Burress said, specifically mentioning general manager Jerry Reese, according to the Men's Journal article.

"They let the media tear me apart, saying I was dogging practice, that I wasn't a team player, all this sh--. The players thought I was pissing on 'em, and coach Coughlin hated it because he was out of the loop: The orders came from upstairs. And meanwhile, he's on the sideline cursing me out 'cause I got a ball punched out against Green Bay. I just stared at him like, 'Are you out of your fu----- mind? I got a separated shoulder and can't run!' "

He cleared the air with the Giants but signed a one-year, $3.017 million contract with the Jets. On Thursday after practice, Burress explained why he blasted the Giants.

"For me, there just comes a time when you want to get things off your chest and you just speak about it at that time and put it behind you," said Burress, adding that he was "just being honest." "I met with everybody over there (with the Giants) and I think everything went well. We had some good conversations, closure on the situation that happened with me, and everybody over there at that time. And I thought that everything was as good as it probably could have went."

On Friday, Coughlin was asked if meeting with Burress provided closure.

"We were trying to decide whether and to what extent we were going to be able to try to and make an offer," he said. "It wasn't about closure. It was about business. It was about going forward, which is what this is about."

The Jets and Giants play each other in Week 16 on Christmas Eve. Burress is set to make his regular-season debut Sunday night against the Dallas Cowboys in New York.

Beyond the field, Burress has tried to turn a negative situation into a positive, speaking at this year's rookie symposium.

"I told them, 10 years ago I was sitting where you're at and not trying to hear this sh--," Burress said, according to Men's Journal. "But I threw away $12 million these last two years, and half of you will never even see that. I made a choice and lost everything: my contract, my Nike deal, and the birth of my daughter. That ain't some dude talking; it actually happened."

Mike Mazzeo is a frequent contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.

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