Tag:Plaxico Burress
Posted on: April 15, 2009 4:47 pm
Edited on: April 16, 2009 10:25 am
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Don't Live to Regret: Edwards is a no-'Bray'ner

All the "woulda-shoulda-coulda" stories. Regretting the chances we DIDN'T take. Message to Jerry Reese: Get this guy, get him now.

Do you remember passing on an appetizer at a restaurant? You know, the really tasty looking kind that everyone else ordered but you?

You probably reasoned with yourself - "I can do without it - Mind over matter". You don't know why you felt that way, but hey - you saved a few bucks, saved yourself a few extra pounds, and saved room for your main course, right? The waiter no sooner slapped the plates down on the table and the succulent aroma was already wafting towards you. You could literally see the steam take the form of a hand that curled it's finger - beckoning you to "come here and take a bite". But you didn't... instead you sat and watched everyone else enjoy their appitizer. Of course, they offered to share with you - "C'mon, take some. I can't eat all of this anyway." You sat back, forced yourself to smile and said "Nah, really I'm good. If I wanted it I would have ordered it myself." But... you didn't. And though you were silently kicking yourself for overcomplicating such a simple decision, it evolved into nothing more than saving face. Stupid, right? I'll bet it worked out fine though, because you made up for it by grabbing some ice cream on the way home. That's what I would have done.

A minor regret, easily tucked away and forgotten thanks to a 24-hour Baskin-Robbins.

On weekends, we're all faced with making at least one trip somewhere - to someplace we would rather not be going if given the choice. Usually it's family you don't quite get along with or enjoy being around. Or good friends that happen to live a full 2-hour drive away. But what really burns you is not that you had to go in the first place - it's the fact that you ignored that little voice inside your head that told you there would be massive delays on the parkway. It told you that you should give considerable thought to taking that alternate route you're always so quick to brag about having discovered years ago.  At least now you have something to think about as you pop another piece of nicotene gum in your mouth while stretching every last nerve you own staying calm in bumper-to-bumper traffic.

Another small regret that helped toss a perfectly good weekend afternoon into the trash can, but it's not the end of the world.

I remember being at Fairleigh Dickinson University almost 20 years ago for Giants training camp. A retired player - who shall remain nameless for fear that he may track me down - was milling around the commissary. I politely asked him for an autograph and reached out to shake his hand. He ignored me, and didn't even look at me when he said "I'm working. I don't sign while I'm working". A 20-something man acting like a dejected 10-year old, I dropped my head and shuffled away crestfallen (I think i actually shoved my hands in my pockets and kicked a rock as I left). It wasn't asking for the autograph that I regret. It was the comment I made when I saw him later in the day... he was presenting trophies to some pee-wee football team (complete with photographers from the local PennySaver). I uttered "Hey kids, don't bother asking for an autograph - He's 'working' today" as I passed by the group - I even threw in a set of obnoxious air quotes for good measure.

OK, so I was 20-something, but I would be lying if I pretended that there weren't multifaceted levels of regret attached to that incident. It's alright though, because I ran into him years later and everything was cool. And by 'cool", I mean he ignored me again.

And then there's "The Big One".

One big regret that each and every one of us lives with. Maybe it's that girl you were infatuated with and never summoned the courage to ask out on a date. Perhaps it was that promotion or opportunity you held yourself back from pursuing because you felt you had no shot at it. A house or car that you backed away from investing in, because it was "just a bit too..." something; too expensive, too old, too big, too this and too that.

Maybe it was keeping quiet when something needed to be said, or standing up for someone who needed the help. Maybe it was putting off a visit with a loved one until it was too late - never having the chance to say goodbye.

These are real-life. These matter, and these can hurt. They're important in comparison to your allegiance to an NFL team. There's a weight there, and its immesurable - the consequences dynamic. Let's get back to the NFL and lighten things up a bit.

In a few years, we could all be sitting around discussing the trade the Giants didn't make. You know - the one that could have sent Braylon Edwards to the Giants for some draft picks and a receiver? One of the dedicated and talented, yet undeniably not-ready-for-primetime receivers on the Giants roster? Yeah, Edwards had a down year in 2008... he dropped everything thrown to him. Except for that Monday night game in week four against the Giants. You just knew that this 6'3", 220 lb monster of a receiver was going to turn things around. He just needed some consistency from his quarterback, and a coaching staff with a winning attitude. It wasn't as if he was carrying the same baggage that Plaxico Burress did when he made the trip fom Pittsburgh in 2005.

Man, Braylon Edwards would have looked good in Giant blue as our new number 17. Too bad they didn't listen to that little voice in their heads, telling them to give considerable thought to taking that alternate route. Too bad they ignored the outstretched arm of the Cleveland Browns that only wanted a signature and a hand shake. To quote Shelly Levene, the desperately pathetic salesman in David Mamet's Glengarry Glen Ross - "All my thoughts are on them as I'm holding the last thought that I spoke: 'Now is the time'... they signed."

An aroma is wafting towards East Rutherford at this very moment - beckoning for the Giants to "come here and take a bite" out of their offensive shortcomings. It's only a matter of opinion, but Edwards just might be something to invest in - and not worry about whether he's just a little too inconsistent. Or a little too expensive.

It's not life or death. But it's certainly not something that can be satiated by stopping off at a 24-hour Baskin-Robbins, either.

 

 

Posted on: January 23, 2009 11:14 am
Edited on: January 23, 2009 11:33 am
 

Doomed? Dead Piano Players & Giant Receivers

One's at a piano and the other's on a sideline, but both seats may be cursed.

 Plaxico   Mydland (bottom left)

When the Grateful Dead formed back in 1965 (under the name "The Warlocks") their keyboardist and blues singer extraordinaire was Ron "Pig Pen" McKernan. Pig Pen was the only member of the group that shunned drugs and hallucinogenics, but oddly enough was the first member of the group to pass away due to overindulgence and abuse when his heavy drinking caught up with him in 1973, at the age of 27. Before Pig Pen died, he was in a state of deterioration for over a year; this prompted the band to hire the services of Piano player Keith Godchaux (along with his wife Donna, a vocalist) as a compliment to Pig Pen's blues harmonica and lead vocals when he was healthy enough to make a tour. Godchaux was with the Dead until 1979 when he and his wife were asked to leave the band in favor of keyboardist Brent Mydland. Less that a year after being fired, Keith Godchaux was killed in a car accident.

Mydland was creative musician and gifted singer, who wrote a lot of songs for the Dead over his 10-year run with the group. In July of 1990, Mydland was found dead at his home in Lafayette, California of an accidental drug overdose. The search for their fourth keyboardist was on, and eventually Vince Welnick - formerly of The Tubes - joined the lineup. The Grateful Dead called it quits in 1995 following the death of Jerry Garcia, and Welnick was pretty much on his own from that point; Welnick was not invited to take part in future projects or tours with the surviving members of the band. Welnick committed suicide on June 2nd, 2006.

There's nothing inherently shocking anymore (unfortunately) about rock & roll musicians dying from self-inflicted wounds or drug & alcohol abuse; And we certainly can't compare the culture of wantonness and excess of a perpetually touring rock band to what should be the more structured, disciplined and health conscious lifestyle of an NFL Wide Receiver.

But since the Grateful Dead have pretty much been my favorite band throughout my life, and the New York Giants being my team...

Reports came out yesterday that Taye Biddle, a second-year receiver who played sparingly with the Carolina Panthers in his rookie season, and was signed to the Giants practice squad this past season, was shot in the leg and in the hand in front of his family's house in Decatur, Alabama while getting something out of his car. The injuries are supposedly minor - just like Biddle's importance to the Giants' future plans for rebuilding their wide receiver corps. "There is no evidence to indicate that Biddle did anything to contribute, cause or provoke the shooting." according to Decatur police. The Hospital Biddle was treated at stated that he would require more surgery on the injury to his hand, and according to a Giants team spokesman Biddle has been in constant contact with the organization regarding the situation.

Taye Biddle's fluky incident - in and of itself - is not headline news, but it's really an interesting coincidence when you realize that Biddle was signed to the Giants practice squad back in September to fill the open slot that was created when Plaxico Burress was suspended for 2 weeks for failing to alert the team he would be skipping practice to take his daughter to school.

We've all been beaten over the head ad nauseum with the Burress saga that began with that suspension and reached its pinnacle outside of a New York City club in late November. Just three days prior to the Latin Quarter incident, fellow teammate and wide receiver Stever Smith was robbed at gunpoint as he was walking up to his front door. Smith had the muzzle of a pistol pressed against the back of his head as he handed over his jewelry and cash. Smith was shaken up over the incident, saying he felt like he "could be dead right now" had he resisted.

As long as the initial reports regarding Taye Biddle are eventually corroborated in the police investigation, we have three receivers on one team that in the last two months have found themselves in dangerous circumstances involving guns; two of which were seemingly random happenings and one that was accidental - even if it was his own fault.

If the Giants do seriously decide to belly-flop into the tantalizing waters of the wide receiver free agency (which I strongly advocate), I don't think General Manager Jerry Reese will lose much sleep wrestling with the choice of whether to pursue T.J. Houshmandzadeh or Terrell Owens.

Besides, Tom Constanten and Bruce Hornsby were both keyboardists for the Grateful Dead, and they're doing just fine these days.

 

Posted on: December 3, 2008 4:00 pm
Edited on: December 28, 2008 9:02 pm
 

NY Giants 3rd Quarter Report Card

No Rest for the Weary

Big Blue improves in some areas, needs improvement in others, and expels a disruptive young man as they strive to be Valedictorians of the 2008 NFL class

I have a good friend that teaches high school in New York City; a not-so-nice part of New York City. I'll refer to him as "Steve" because, well... that's his name. And to that end "Steve" no longer needs quotations around his name. Steve... there, that's better.

Anyway, Steve has been a friend for almost 25 years. He's a tolerant, intellegent guy who understands the in's and out's of how things work in everyday life. To look at Steve you would never imagine him being able to survive teaching 20-30 students six times a day, especially when some of those students are criminals, to be blunt about it. To give you an idea of the type of "kids" he teaches, he's actually had NYPD officers - more than once - knock on his door and escort kids out of his classroom and into their squad cars. When I ask him how he puts up with this, he usually tells me that it's all in the relationships he establishes with his students the very first day. His philosophy is simple: I won't bother you, you won't bother me. If I ask you to do something and you do it, you'll pass; if you don't do it you'll fail. He won't give them a hard time about missing assignments, he won't write letters to their parents. He doesn't get involved in their business, and if he gives them a poor grade and they complain, he reminds them of the ground rules.    

I can't necessarily blame him for not teaching them to respect authority. While he'd never openly admit it, the ground rules are not about authority, they're about survival - his survival. And there's a reason he has to approach it this way... the school system, the parents and the laws are not on his side. How can anyone be expected to hold anyone accountable when you have to look over your shoulder when you head for your car at the end of the day? Or have to face angry parents who threaten you with lawsuits if you suspend their kids because "they deserve an education"? Or have school administrators forcing you to pass a minimum of 75% of your students, when 10% of them actually do the work? It's a setup for failure, and fighting the system is futile.

The reason I'm telling you about my friend Steve is because it illustrates two very important facts: First, that discipline and accountability are a necessary element to the success of any group, organization or team. Second, if a system is in place that does not support the authority, then the authority has to create ground rules that are very easy to follow but allow anarchy. Plaxico Burress was handled about as gently as possible by the New York Giants organization, because they know his days as a Giant are over, and there's no reason to rub salt in an open wound. The law - and the public - are taking care of doling out Plaxico's punishment, so there's no need for the Giants to do anything but cut ties and part ways. But because of discipline, authority and owner support, the Giants are able to stick to their guns and put team first. And are better off than most for it.

So Plaxico is escorted out of the classroom in hand cuffs as the rest of the students sit quietly, each feeling good about the choices they've made, and that it's not them. But snapping back into reality, the rest of this class has an assignment to finish; winning the division, having success in the playoffs and reaching the goal of "champions" - valedictorians.

 

COACHES

 A+  ( no grade last quarter Why haven't I graded the coaching staff until now? What can be said to accurately describe the value of a coaching staff that keeps a team prepared, motivated and focused every single game, like Tom Coughlin? That fully understands the strengths and weaknesses of it's players and structures a plan built on exploiting the positives while surpressing the negatives, like Kevin Gilbride? Or finally, a staff that combines intuition and mettle to pick out the opponent's greatest asset, and target it with the sole purpose of blowing it to bits, like Steve Spagnuolo? This is hands down the best coaching staff in the league right now. I'm not implying that Coughlin is the best head coach in the league, or that Gilbride and Spagnuolo are the best coordinators. But right now, they are the best staff in football.

 

OFFENSE

QUARTERBACK:  A  ( last quarter - B Eli Manning dropped from an 'A' to a 'B' at the midterm grading because I had crtitcized him for his inability to scan the field and avoid throwing into dangerous coverage - His passer rating had dropped nearly 10 points from the first four games, and his four interceptions in that span could have easily been ten. In his last four games, he's thrown 7 touchdowns and 3 interceptions, but more importantly his overall performance has improved while being asked to shoulder more of the load. He completed 63% of his passes this quarter, and has been sharper at the line of scrimmage in reading defensive formations and changing plays with successful results. With the running game being featured less prominently over the past two weeks (due to the Brandon Jacobs injury and Ahmad Bradshaw's absence in Washington), Manning has thrown for 545 yards with four TD's and only 1 INT, completing 47 of 67 passes.

OFFENSIVE LINE:  A+ ( last quarter - A+ ) When you have five guys that big and that bulky, doing what they do each game, you can't expect them to perform at peak levels as the season progresses. You wouldn't expect them to lay down and take a nap on the field, but you have to be a realist and understand that consecutive games against the Steelers, Cowboys, Eagles and Ravens is a taxing experience for an offensive line. You can almost determine the physical punishement they took in those contests by looking at the results they got in both  the running game and in pass protection. They continue to play at an extremely high level, and while the running game has softened up a bit for more reasons that the o-line's effectiveness, Manning continues to leave the playing field with a clean jersey. David Diehl, Rich Seubert, Shaun O'Hara, Chris Snee and Kareem McKenzie are giving everything they physically and mentally can. A few Pro Bowl selections are a lock for this crew. 

RUNNING BACKS:  B ( last quarter - A+ ) An 'A' for effort, all the way around. Had the last two games in Washington and Arizona been even half as productive as they were against Baltimore and Philadelphia, this grade would be higher. The back-to-back-to-back 200+ yards of rushing that Jacobs, Bradshaw and Derrick Ward had churned out weeks 9 through 11 were nothing short of amazing. The continued ability for the offensive line to push defenders backwards and create lanes played a large role in that amazing feat. Things have quited down over the last two weeks, however. Jacobs has been nursing a sore knee which kept him out of the Cardinals game and clearly affected his running style against the Redskins, where he ran for 71 yards but only 3.3 per carry. Derrick Ward picked up the slack nicely, but his average per carry is down as well. Ward's YPA over the first eight games was 6.1; over the last four games it's down to 3.3. Ward's biggest asset this quarter was receiving,  16 catches for 186 yards. Bradshaw was phenomenal against the Ravens, gaining 96 yards on just nine carries. He wasn't able to do much in Arizona, and he was inactive for last week's game in Washington, presumably due to the Plaxico Burress fiasco two nights earlier. All three backs are valuable to the offense in their own unique way; The upcoming game with Philadelphia will reveal a bit more about the true status of Jacobs' knee, and hopefully Ward gets back on track. Bradshaw has to be careful; he's already done a stint in the house for parole violations over the summer. Consider this 'B' grading a result of Ahmad's simply being present at the Latin Quarter, and the sharp reduction in average per carries as a unit. 

RECEIVERS:  A ( last quarter - B+Give credit where credit's due; Madison Hedgecock finally held onto a pass - not once - but twice against Arizona, one for a 2-yard touchdown (I'll look the other way on that "celebration" in the end zone, otherwise I'd have to decuct points). Kevin Boss continues to contribute, with 13 receptions for 162 yards and two touchdowns this past quarter. What's been a welcomed sight these past four games is Boss' improved blocking skills; he's standing upright more often and extending his arms to get his hands on the defender's shoulders or chest to drive them backwards, instead of curling up and throwing his body at them. Boss has made some huge receptions but is still prone to the occasional drop. The playmaking ability of starters Amani Toomer and Domanick Hixon really impacted the grading this quarter. Toomer looks like he has years left in him, still beating corners of the line and showing the athleticism of someone 10 years younger when having to dive for balls. Hixon's presence in the receiver corps has saved the Giants passing game, or at least has kept it at the level it's been since the end of last season. His sheer physical abitlity is equal to - or greater than - any of the Giants receivers. He's catching balls over the middle, taking hard shots and holding onto the ball. He's been Eli's favorite target in each of the games he started, and has the wherewithal to break out of a pattern when the play breaks down and provide Manning an opportunity to get rid of the ball. Steve Smith remains Eli's security blanket, and Sinorice Moss has started showing flashes of potential.

 

DEFENSE / SPECIAL TEAMS

DEFENSIVE LINE / LINEBACKERS:  A  ( last quarter - A+ ) Two weeks ago in Seattle, Redskins running back Clinton Portis ran 29 times for 143 yards - almost 5 yards per carry. In his very next game - against the Giants - Portis ran 11 times for 22 yards. That's the story of the New York Giants defensive line & linebackers; they take away your best player. Sure, Portis got his bell rung by Michael Johnson in the second quarter while being tackled, and was clearly struggling in the rain-soaked conditions. But it was clear from the onset that Portis would be ineffective. Maybe not for the entire game, as I'm sure a player of his caliber would have gotten off a few big runs had they stuck with him. But in shutting him down time after time in the first half and scoring points as early as they did, Jim Zorn had little choice but to find other alternatives. It was the same story for the Ravens and Willis McGahee, as it was for the Eagles and Brian Westbrook. All three runningbacks mentioned were held to 13 carries or less, all were held to 26 yards or less, all were held to under 2.3 yards per carry. That's strong pressure up the middle and solid coverage on the outside. They were able to register four sacks against Jason Campbell last week, but only two in the other three games this quarter. The Eagles and Cardinals both had success throwing the ball on the Giants, but questions or concerns couldn't all be laid at the feet of the secondary. The swarming pressure from Giants lineman and linebackers that opponents had grown accustomed to wasn't always there, but it might have been a byproduct of the defensive game planning. Antonio Pierce anchors the defense and handles the radio, and he's looked a little more involved than usual. He still manages to somehow be standing around piles instead of being buried in them, but he seems to be recovered from the quad injury he suffered in week 3. Fred Robbins is still dealing with a shoulder injury, so Jay Alford has been starting at DT.

CORNERBACKS / SAFETIES:  A  ( last quarter - B+ )  Rookies Kenny Phillips (S) and Terrell Thomas (CB) have both seen increases in in playing time over the last four games. Phillips as a result of his performance and Thomas as a result of an injury earlier in the season to Kevin Dockery. Both have made strides with the opportunities given to them, but Phillips has been arguably the best member of the Giants secondary, second only to Corey Webster. Steve Spagnuolo finds himself with quite an arsenal of defenders, which he rotates in and out depending on which package he calls for. Michael Johnson and Phillips have been a strong pairing at safety, and Aaron Ross' game has picked up significantly, with three interceptions and touchdown this past quarter. The middle of the field is still a soft spot in their coverage, where tight ends like Chris Cooley and possession receivers like Derrick Mason can rack up yardage in a hurry. The secondary's ability to get to the receiver and limit yards after the catch has been the way they've countered that, which was never more evident than against the "dynamic duo" of receivers in Arizona two weeks ago. As for Thomas, he's started showing some of the physical style of play he displayed at USC which is an encouraging sign.         

SPECIAL TEAMS: B+  ( last quarter - B ) This is the third straight quarter that Special teams has failed to crack the 'B+' ceiling. Why is that? There are a few reasons, but first we'll focus on the positives. Domenick Hixon has been on fire in the return game, providing the offense with above average field position most of the time. Ahamad Bradshaw has been the kickoff return man, but was inactive last week so Hixon took over. Not too long into the game, Coughlin made the wise decision to give Sinorice Moss his old job back so that Hixon wasn't too heavily taxed. So Hixon's performance and the consistently reliable tandem of John Carney and Jeff Feagles (or "Grumpy Old Men", as I like to call them) are right on target. Where things get dicey are with the (a) kickoffs and (b) kickoff returns. As the season  moves  along, Carney's kickoffs have been noticeably shorter - usually falling out of the sky at around the 15-20 yard line. I;ve said it in previous report cards, but they'll need Lawrence Tynes to boot a few long ones out of the and zone at some point, so will they need to carry two kickers? the choice is to live with Carney's weaker kickoffs to have his accuracy on field goals, or keep Tynes for the stronger leg but have to deal with a less reliable field goal kicker. Or keep both. As for the kickoff returns, Ahmad Bradshaw hadn't exactly turned any heads so far. Hixon's going to start at WR for Burress, which means Sinorice Moss will see increased action. So it's Bradshaw or bust.

 

statistical sources: sportsline.com, pro-football-reference.com, nfl.com

Posted on: December 2, 2008 10:28 pm
Edited on: December 2, 2008 11:23 pm
 

The Way We Were...

I would expect that some folks are looking to The Blue Sreak today for some thoughts regarding Plaxico Burress. I have nothing to offer that hasn't already been beaten to death in the newspapers, on sports talk radio, ESPN, and right here on sportsline and in our own little community. There's nothing left to say, except that it's over now.

In lieu of my own thoughts, I decided to reach way back into the archive of our local paper, The Daily News, for a little "Remember When" moment. When Burress first arrived in New York, and a world of possibilities were ahead of him - and that came to fruition in the back corner of an end zone in Glendale, Arizona... before he decided that holding on to it all was too hard. When he walked into the 17th precinct on Monday morning, he basically unclenched the grasp he once had on New York and allowed the cheers, accolades and success pour out like sand through his fingers.  

The story below was published in 2005, Plaxico's first season with the Giants.

"Memories... like the corners of my mind... shaggy goatee covered memories... of the way we were." 


 

HE'S A MANN'S MAN. Burress has what it takes to be Eli's go-to guy

Thursday, September 8th 2005, 1:11AM

There were far too many times in Pittsburgh the last few seasons when Plaxico Burress thought he was wide open and nobody seemed to care. He'd line up, one-on-one against a smaller, slower cornerback, and he knew it didn't matter, because the play called was almost always a run.

"When I was in Pittsbugh, I was basically worried about how many times the ball would be thrown my way," Burress says. "Being in an offense that only throws the ball 15 times a game, and I'm a wide receiver not a running back, how much do you expect me to catch? I'd get three or four attempts per game. I just thought it was time for me to move on from that.

"I want to go out and show my ability and what I can do."

It has taken six bumpy years and dozens of hits to his reputation, but the 28-year-old Burress finally believes he's found a place he can do that. He looks at the Giants' offense and sees so many ways for him to finally be recognized as one of the NFL's top receivers. He looks at New York and sees his mark at center stage.

And he looks at his new quarterback, Eli Manning, and sees a long and productive future. That's why back in March, two weeks after he signed a six-year, $25 million contract, he said, "Hopefully, that Manning-to-Burress thing can be a big thing around here."

It's been a long time since a quarterback-receiver combination has been "a big thing" around the Giants - maybe since Fran Tarkenton helped make Homer Jones the Giants' last Pro Bowl receiver in 1968. Phil Simms had a small army of receivers in the 1980s and was most well known for throwing to his tight end, Mark Bavaro. And while Amani Toomer had some great seasons catching passes from Kerry Collins in the 1990s, Collins always said he preferred throwing to Ike Hilliard.

For the most part, this has been a franchise known for its defense and ground game. It has nothing in its history to compare with Bradshaw-to-Swann, Montana-to-Rice, Aikman-to-Irvin or Manning-to-Harrison.

It could be years before anyone knows if Manning-to-Burress can become even a fraction of those combinations. But at least they have some potential. Manning sees that in Burress' impressive numbers (261 catches for 4,164 yards in basically four seasons). He sees Burress' speed and can picture him running through opposing defenses. And he sees Burress' size (6-5, 206) and pictures him leaping over smaller defensive backs.

"You put him on a 5-9 corner," says tight ends coach Mike Pope, "and it looks like a father-son banquet."

Plus, there's something else Manning sees in Burress - something he knows he's seen before. When Manning was at Ole Miss, he had a special relationship with a receiver named Chris Collins - a smaller and lesser player who was cut by the Pittsburgh Steelers on Friday. Collins was Ole Miss' leading receiver for each of Manning's last three seasons, but more importantly, he and Manning seemed to know exactly what the other was thinking.

They were so in tune with each other that sometimes all it took was a glance at the line of scrimmage to alter a play.

"You're talking about a guy who, for some reason, you have a great feel with," Manning says. "It's a guy where for some reason, if you've never run that play before, something new has happened, and you can just tell from his body. He just has a great feel for the game and you can feel it with him. You have that special connection. Sometimes it's hard to explain.

"And it's something that doesn't happen in a month or two. Hopefully we can get that connection between me and Plax in a short period of time."

Ideally, Manning and Burress would develop that connection immediately - one big reason Manning wanted Burress to spend more time at the Giants' offseason training program this spring than he did. Unfortunately for them, they didn't have as much time together this summer as they would have liked either. Burress missed several practices early in camp with a sore hip flexor. Then Manning missed the last two weeks with a sprained right elbow that also kept him out of two preseason games.

The result was an incomplete grade. Burress caught two passes for 24 yards in his two preseason games with Manning, highlighted by a 20-yard touchdown catch in Cleveland that saw Burress out-jump a smaller defensive back. It was a great example of how Manning wants to use Burress, especially in the red zone. But it's not enough of a sample to know for sure if it'll work all year long.

Most of the excitement of Manning-to-Burress is hype based on speculation. Everyone was excited by what Manning did in his final three games last season (53 for 87, 527 yards, five touchdowns, three interceptions, one dramatic win). And many remember how good Burress was in 2002, when he was a featured part of the Steelers' offense and caught 78 passes for 1,325 yards.

"Some people say I may have underachieved when I was in Pittsburgh," Burress says. "But you have to have the opportunity to achieve anything, period, much less overachieve. And I think I was a big-play receiver in Pittsburgh. I only averaged 20 yards per catch (actually 19.8 in 11 games last year)."

Burress is positive he could have done more if his coaches had chosen to build the Steelers' offense around him. And he thinks they might have considered doing just that if he wasn't forced to play with four different quarterbacks in five years.

That might be the best thing about the Manning-to-Burress combination - the possibilities for their future. Manning is only 24 and signed through 2009. Burress is only four years older and signed through 2010. As long as they stay healthy, they'll probably be together at least another four or five years.

That should be plenty of time to make them the next "big thing."

"It doesn't happen automatically," Manning says. "Sometimes it comes from hard work and repetition. After being with someone for a long period of time you start to get it. Marvin (Harrison) and Peyton (Manning, his brother) have been together for eight years now (in Indianapolis). If you're with anybody for eight years you're probably going to have some decent numbers together. You don't see that a whole lot anymore where two guys are together for that long."

Of course, there are many things that could prevent it from happening no matter how long Manning and Burress are together. For one thing, Toomer is still here and he certainly could emerge as Manning's favorite receiver. And then there's Jeremy Shockey, who could easily push Burress aside and become to Manning what Bavaro was to Simms.

But even if one of those things happen, Burress still believes he and Manning will eventually put up some prolific numbers. He knows it because this is the opportunity he's been waiting for all his life.

"I'm very confident in what I can accomplish here," Burress says. "I look at the things that I've done in the last five years and I'm not satisfied with that, because I know, in the right place, anything I put my mind to I can do very well.

"You don't always get everything you want right away," he adds. "Now is my time to go out and show everybody what I'm capable of doing. I don't know what it feels like to get the ball 10-12 times a game. That's how many times we threw the ball in a whole game (in Pittsburgh). I was just waiting for my time to come, and my time has arrived.".

 


Category: NFL
Posted on: November 30, 2008 6:04 pm
Edited on: December 28, 2008 9:05 pm
 

RECAP: Giants 23, Redskins 7

Something in the Air

On the day Sean Taylor is forever enshrined in the Ring of Fame, 305 yards by Eli Manning fly in the face of the Redskins' emotions.

  


 

On a cold & rainy day at FedEx Field, Clinton Portis emerged from the Tunnel sprinting, proudly carrying a flag that displayed the "21" worn by his teammate and friend - both at the University of Miami and more recently with the Washington Redskins. The late Sean Taylor was remembered in an emotional ceremony that took place just before the Redskins were to face their division rivals the New York Giants. Standing at midfield beneath rain-drenched umbrellas - in the soggy FedEx Field turf emblazoned with a large number "21' encircled in burgandy - were Taylor's parents, girlfriend and daughter. After the PA announcer's voice rang out through the stadium announcing Taylor as the starting safety, Head Coach Jim Zorn's team hoped to carry the emotion of that moment into the game with the same sense of purpose that Portis had carried that flag onto the field.

All the emotion in the city of Landover couldn't help Zorn's team today. Despite the emotion of Taylor's induction to the Redskins Ring of Fame, and the distractions caused by Plaxico "Buckshot" Burress this past Friday, Coach Tom Coughlin had his men ready for battle as the Giants improved their record to 11-1 for the first time in team history and dominated the Redskins 23-7. New York outgained Washington by 135 total net yards, and dominated time of possession by almost 14 minutes.

What was most noticeable from the onset was the Redskins commitment to stopping the Giants running game. Brandon Jacobs was able to start the game despite being listed as questionable with his sore knee. The sloppy field conditions made it diffuicult for Jacobs to get his footing, but the Redskins defense made it difficult for BJ to keep his kegs moving; Jacobs could not build up a head of steam as he only mustered 18 yards on 8 carries in the first half. Offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride quickly shifted gears, and - as he did the week prior in Arizona - put the game in the hands of Eli Manning. Manning responded with three completions on the first drive, capped by a 40-yard TD strike to Amani Toomer that put the Giants ahead by 7 early in the first quarter. Manning finished the day 21 of 34 for 305 yards, a touchdown and an interception. It was Manning's first 300-yard game this season, and his first since October 15th of last year, when he faced the Atlanta Falcons. Despite being sacked twice, Manning displayed great presence in the pocket, and reminded us of his improved awareness of onrushing defenders as the offensive line collapses around him.

Domenik Hixon was sure-handed once again in place of the injured Burress. He's building a reputation for himself as a tough over-the-middle receiver who can take a hit and hold onto the ball - even when he has to reach over his head to grab it - and can never be accused of having "alligator arms". Hixon finished with 5 catches for 71 yards, only outdone by Toomer (85 yards) and RB Derrick Ward. Ward has become a vital part of Gilbride's ability to find success with mid-game adjustments. When Jacob's couldn't move the line, Ward was brought in to give it a shot; when Washington's stifling defensive line continued to shut them down, Ward (the team' most reliable hands out of the backfield) became another receiving option for Eli, and his five catchers for 75 yards gave him 105 total yards on the day. TE Kevin Boss also nabbed three passes for 45 yards, including a short pass over the middle in the 1st quarter where he plowed through a few defenders on his way to a 24-yard gain. It was the kind of effort that Boss has shown since rounding into form mid-season that helps Giants fans forget about the guy who used to wear #80.

Redskins RB Clinton Portis was in the same boat as the Giants running backs... In fact, Redskins offensive coordinator Sherman Smith could have used a boat  to help Portis find a clearing on the rain-soaked field today. It certainly would have made things easier physically for Clinton; he had to leave the field twice to recover from injuries. In the first half, Portis took an elbow to the helmet from safety Michael Johnson as he was being tackled. Portis was on his back as trainers looked at him on the field for a good five minutes. Portis suffered a neck stinger and was eventually able to get up and make it to the sideline under his own power. Portis showed, once again, what a true warrior he is. the Giants defense was stingy, allowing Portis just 22 yards on 11 carries. 29 of the Redskins' 76 rushing yards came on one play in the 2nd quarter on a beautiful end-around to rookie wide receiver Devin Thomas - which froze the Giants entire defense as it was pursuing to the left, while Thomas ran right and bolted into the end zone for the Skins only score of the game.

Jason Campbell (23/38 for 232 yards and 1 interception) accounted for 38 more of those rushing yards on five carries, most of which came in the 4th quarter as Steve Spagnuolo's defense eased up on the pressure and provided some breathing room for Campbell as the game was out of reach for Washington. As I had indirectly predicted in my pregame "Things to Do" list posting last night, TE Chris Cooley was the leading receiver for Washington with six receptions for 71 yards. Cooley, along with Dallas TE Jason Witten, are Giants killers over the middle, and luckily his continued success against the Giants linebackers didn't factor into the outcome of the game. Santana Moss and Antwaan Randle El were held in check for the most part, thanks to the ongoing pro-bowl type play of rookie safety Kenny Phillips and cornerback Corey Webster - who had swatted at least 5 passes out of the hands of Washington receivers. CB Aaron Ross had another interception this afternoon, for his third of the season.

The Giants are on their way to a division title, and two more divisional games with the Eagles and Cowboys will seal the deal. What's most impressive about this Giants team is the way they keep rolling along, regardless of weather conditions, injuries or distractions. They game plan successfully for each opponent and execute it with authority; when a starter goes down, they move the next guy up and plug him into the starting lineup with little or zero noticeable impact to the unit's overall performance. This is an exiting time as a Giants fan - even during the glory years of Phil Simms, Lawrence Taylor and the "Big Blue Wrecking crew", there were lapses in intensity and setbacks when players missed time because of an injury. Having dealt with short-term losses at almost every position during the season - and a few long-term losses before the season began - one man has stood on the field through it all, and he's clearly the one man the Giants cannot afford to be without come the playoffs: Eli Manning. Despite Justin Tuck's phenomenal job replacing Giants legend Michael Strahan, and Mathias Kiwanuka's successful return to the outside lineman's spot to fill the void left by Osi Umenyiora, Manning is the driving force behind the success of this team. He's a rare commodity in today's NFL; an intelligent and heads-up QB without an agenda, who's desire to win is not overtaken by his desire to be the star of the team. We'll take the occasional bad pass or interception, and deal with his on again-off again relationship with play clock... He's matured, and it's what every Giants fan has been waiting for. A consistent Eli Manning.

 

Notes & Comments

"If Woody had gone straight to the police..." The lawyer representing Plaxico Burress released a statement earlier today which states that the Giants wide receiver will surrender to the police; Benjamin Brafman told the Associated Press he's been informed that Burress will face a charge of criminal possession of a weapon when he turns himself in Monday morning and will enter a plea of "not guilty". Giants LB Antonio Pierce - who was with Plaxico along with Derrick Ward at the Latin Quarter nightclub - spoke with NFL security prior to today's game, and is willing to cooperate with investigators regarding his alleged involvement with hiding the weapon, according to reports. Pierce was allowed to play today, and had four tackles. For more in-depth information and commentary with a local flavor, visit the NY Daily news online

Another milestone for John Carney. Carney's first of three field goals in the game was his 450th career 3-pointer. He is 27 of 28 on the season, and his accuracy has kept a healthy Lawrence Tynes on the sidelines over the past two weeks.

Resting Robbins: Second-year player Jay Alford started in place of the injured Fred Robbins at Nose Tackle. Robbins in nursing a shoulder injury suffered in last week's win at Arizona. The Giants do not expect Robbins to miss next week's game.  

A scary moment. Giants fans held their collective breath as Shaun O'Hara was tended to on the field after taking a hit to the knee. He needed help getting to the sideline as 10-year veteran Grey Reugamer took over for him at center. O'Hara suffered a mild knee sprain and eventually returned to the game. Look for the Giants to have the captain of the offensive line scanned on Monday or Tuesday.

Catching them red-handed. Tom Coughlin challanged a call in the 2nd quarter, when Eli Manning's pass to Steve Smith was ruled incomplete. The play had first been ruled a catch, but was changed after a short conference. Despite the ball appearing to have short-hopped into Smith's hands, as well as getting a little assistance from the ground as he rolled over, and out of the camera's line of sight - Coughlin threw the red flag and the call was eventually reversed (for the second time, you might say). Coughlin has now been successful on five of his six challenges this season.

 

Statistical source: sportsline.com    /    Sean Taylor photo courtesy: cbsnews.com 

Giants press release on Burress: Associated Press   /   Burress news and reference source: NY Daily News

Posted on: November 29, 2008 8:24 pm
Edited on: November 29, 2008 8:51 pm
 

NY Giants "Things to Do" List for Sunday Nov 30th

Plax takes one in the Slacks

Hixon starts tomorrow and beyond; Kiwanuka won't retaliate for "dirty play"

The Latin Quarter - a night club on Lexington avenue in the heart of midtown Manhattan - advertises on it's website that on Friday nights you can come down and party with "Sportsmen Galore'. After Plaxico Burress' visit this past Friday, they might consider changing that headline to "Sporstmen and Gore".

Burress apparently shot himself in the leg through his pants pocket outside of the club around 1:00 in the morning. There's still no definitive word on hs condition, but initial reports on WFAN 660 and ESPN Radio this morning said the injury was not "life threatening", and Burress was released from the hospital this afternoon. A statement from the New York Giants front office released earlier today provides no further mention of his condition:

"We are aware of the fact that Plaxico was involved in an apparent accidental shooting last night. We have been in contact with Plaxico since shortly after the incident. Plaxico suffered a wound to his right thigh. Obviously, our primary concern is for Plaxico’s health and well-being, and given the circumstances, we are relieved to say he was released from a New York City hospital at approximately 2 p.m. today. We have been in touch with NFL Security on this matter. At this point, we are attempting to gather all the facts surrounding this incident. This incident could become a matter for law enforcement officials, and because of that, we have no comment on any of the details."

I guess the silver lining in this whole situation (besides the fact that it seems Plaxico will be fine) is that this was a freak accident in a public place rather than something he did - say - in the privacy of his own home; and that it wasn't a shot to a part of the body above his waist. Could you imagine the speculation in the press and throughout the NFL community if that were the case? As if they weren't already questioning his mental stability... In any event, fans hope that Burress will be OK and can recover in time to contribute during the team's run towards the playoffs.

Speaking of the team, and purely from an X's and O's perspective, it's a good thing that Plaxico hasn't been a consistent or reliable presence on the field. Eli Manning has built quite a report with Domenik Hixon this year, and the offense shouldn't miss a beat. It's hard to figure out how the team will handle this come Sunday afternoon; Over the last two seasons, coach Tom Coughlin has been a master at keeping his players focused and preparing them for each game regardless of the distractions surrounding them. For the long term, General Manager Jerry Reese needs to heavily consider whether or not Burress remains a part of the Giants organization after the 2008 season.

On a lighter note, Mathias Kiwanuka is looking forward to his matchup on the line Sunday with Washington Redskins LT Chris Samuels. Really looking forward to it. Kiwanuka was quoted in Saturday's Newsday as calling Samuel's final play on opening night a "dirty play". Kiwanuka said "That was the last image I had, the last play, the last image I had for the whole game. So yeah, it'll be in the back of my mind". Kiwanuka is referring to Samuels' tackle from behind on September 4th; On the last play, Kiwanuka had beaten Samuels and was rushing QB Jason Campbell from his blind side. As he was falling forward, Samuels wrapped his arms around Kiwanuka's ankles as his belly hit the ground. Kiwanuka was tripped up as the game ended, and got up limping. The most frustrating part was the fact that the network was wrapping up their coverage so quickly, they didn't show Kiwanuka walk off the field, nor mention the fact that he appeared injured...

All turned out well, of course. Now being 11 games into the season and considering where the Giants are in the NFC standings, it feels like a lifetime ago as I recall the lump in my throat as I watched Mathias hobble off the field. Remember, we had only lost Osi Umenyiora for the season just two weeks earlier in a preseason game against the Jets. Despite his emotions after that game, Kiwanuka says he'll keep his cool, "I'm not going to do anything stupid".

THINGS TO DO FOR SUNDAY NOVEMBER 30th

1. Reestablish the running game. Redskins starting linebacker Marcus Washington is out with an ankle injury; linebacker London Fletcher and defensive end Andre Carter have both missed practice this week with foot injuries. After being limited to 87 yards and 3.2 yards a carry last week in Arizona, this is a prime opportunity for the Giants to get the rushing attack back in business. Brandon Jacobs will play, but how much he'll play depends on how that knee is feeling when he wakes up Sunday morning. If there's even a hint of swelling or tenderness, Coughlin will limit his playing time. Derick Ward and Ahmad Bradshaw are likely to see increased carries regardless.

2. Keep Portis under 100. Clinton Portis leads the NFL in rushing with 1,206 yards, despite running on a bad knee for the better part of the past 2 months. In week 1, the Giants held CP to 84 yards, and his average per rush that night was his second-lowest of the season. As I've mentioned in previous articles, coordinator Steve Spagnuolo has been terrific at keying on the opposition's biggest threat and shutting it down. The key this week is Clinton Portis, and while I'm not usually one to buy into an individual player's "numbers" as they releate to their teams' record, Portis' ability to run the ball is especially important to the Redskins success. In 2008, the Skins are 5-1 when Portis tops the century mark, and 2-3 when he doesn't. One thing to be concerned about is the availability of DT Fred Robbins, who's nursing a shoulder injury and is listed as questionable. If Robbins is unable to go, Jay Alford will start in his place.

3. Watch out for Chris Cooley. The only other tight end that seems to decimate the Giants defense besides the Cowboys' Jason Witten is Washington's #47. Cooley has only 1 touchdown this season, but has 60 receptions - which ties him for 9th in the NFL. Cooley is one of the most versatile receivers in the game; he can beat you with the soft, over-the-middle grabs for 8-10 yards, or he can beat you deep. He's the most valuable receiver on the team; he acts as Campbell's safety valve when deep targets Santana Moss and Antwaan Randle El are covered, while providing another weapon in short yardage situations to counteract Portis, which keeps defenses off balance. Linebackers Antonio Pierce, Danny Clark, Chase Blackburn and Bryan Kehl will be responsible for Cooley's whereabouts.

 

Sources

Kiwanuka quotes: Newsday "Notes & Quotes" by Tom Rock   /   Giants statement: cbsnews.com    /    Stats: nj.com & sportsline

 

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com