All the buzz left surrounding the Chargers are focused on the linebacking and receiving corps. There aren’t any holes left to fill, at least until free agency hits and some players wind up changing teams. Carolina Panthers receiver Steve Smith has already expressed his interest in the Chargers. The longer the lockout goes on, the more likely 2010 rules will be in place as far as signing rookies and free agents go. That would also mean a return of the franchise designation and another uncapped year. With the franchise tag back in effect Vincent Jackson would be locked in for a full season, which would thrill Philip Rivers. AJ Smith could look to move him while his value is still high and bring in someone comparable if he doesn’t want to open the checkbook and pay him like a top-5 receiver over multiple years. My question is could the equivalent to Jackson be had at bargain basement prices?
Should the Chargers take a look at Plaxico Burress?
Plaxico Burress has spent the last two seasons in jail for shooting himself in the leg in an upscale Manhattan nightclub. The gun possession charge landed him in the Oneida Correctional Facility where he has resided for a year and eight monts. Burress is due to be released June 6. Burress mirrors the story of Michael Vick who also was allowed back into the league two years after serving time for his involvement in a dogfighting ring this past season. Vick redeemed himself to the point of supplanting the starter, Kevin Kolb and resulting in Kolb’s placement on the trade block. Could the story be the same for Burress? Here’s a look at the positives and the negatives.
1. Burress has been incarcerated for almost two years. That means no drills, mini-camps, NFL level strength and conditioning program. Has he lost a step or two? How is the vertical that made him Eli Manning’s favorite red zone threat? All the push-ups, sit-ups and free weight lifting in the world world won’t get you into proper NFL shape without a regimented strength and conditioning program to go with it.
2. Burress hasn’t shown the greatest judgement in his professional carreer. He shot himself as his LOADED weapon discharged ‘accidentally’ in the middle of a packed New York City nightclub. According to published reports the gun slipped from the waistband of his sweatpants and fired as he tried to catch it as it slid down his leg. Two things. Who takes a loaded gun into a busy nightclub when there are strict rules against it and who wears SWEATPANTS to a nightclub?? Burress has a wife and children as well as domestic disturbances on his record. The disturbances led to restraining orders both times but they were eventually dismissed by state court.
3. Attitude. On the professional side of the equation, Burress has been disciplined by the Steelers and Giants for missing practices, holding out because he wasn’t happy with his contract, and has had more than one run in with the fans, officials and players on his own and opposing teams that have resulted in fines, suspension or release. The Giants released Burress outright on April 3, 2009.
4. Some players are not cut out to play in New York City. Plaxico enjoyed his status on a Super Bowl winning team and more than likely spent too much time chasing skirts and fame than breaking down game tape. New York does that to athletes and the casualty list is miles long. Darryl Strawberry. Lawrence Taylor. Roger Clemens. Francisco Rodriguez. Latrell Sprewell. Stephon Marbury. The list goes on and on. New York City is Broadway, Madison Avenue, The Five Burroughs, The Statue of Liberty, Times Square and Skid Row. Bright lights, big city, fast times. Plaxico has already stated he does not want to play in NYC anymore so perhaps he is finally realizing this for himself.
1. Burress has not played in two years. That means he hasn’t been getting pounded by defensemen and will be a training camp away from returning to pre-jail form. If Burress hasn’t lost a step, has retained his explosiveness and can show he has made good use of his resources while in jail, he’ll have an easier transition back into the NFL .
2. Michael Vick. Vick could be a great example of what can happen when you straighten up and fly right. Vick was crowned Comeback Player of the Year, was voted starting quarterback for the NFC in the Pro Bowl and won a starting job his first year back in the league after his incarceration. Burress will look at the Vick story and think ‘Why can’t that be me?’
3. The Chargers will love Burress because he fits the mold of the receiver the Chargers like. Burress is 6’5, 230 and great with the deep ball as well as the jump ball at the back of the end zone. Burress is another Vincent Jackson. They both are similar in ability, they both are divas, they both have had multiple run-ins with the law. Burress would be the ideal replacement if VJ leaves, even better on the opposite side of the field from Jackson.
4. The only difference between Jackson and Burress is that Burress, fresh out of jail, will have a lot to prove and will not command top dollar for his services. A veterans minimum with incentives should get the deal done. If there are other teams in the mix the price will go up but not significantly. If Burress has matured over the last two years, which he will say to every team that comes by, he will know this is his last chance to live his dream and (hopefully) become the model teammate the way Vick has.
5. San Diego is not New York City. The temptations of the big city, the need to go out and be seen, more importantly the need to be taking loaded weapons out of the home will disappear in San Diego. There will still be hotties in the Gaslamp District to mack on but the paparazzi’s flashbulbs will be significantly fewer than in New York City. New York is the city that never sleeps. San Diego does sleep…and wakes up late on weekends. Plaxico couldn’t pick a better place to start over away from the public eye.
In summation, Burress is worth a look for what he can bring to the Chargers on the field. Best case scenario, Burress will show he is a man who has learned from the error of his ways and revert his focus back to playing the game at the highest level. After not being able to see your family for two years outside prison walls, the value of life and freedom won’t be taken for granted this time around. Like Bob Sanders, Burress will be a low risk, potentially high reward player who would be a welcome cog in the Chargers offensive machine.