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Tim Hasselbeck on Plaxico Burress: 'Disaster as a Teammate'

Jun 17, 2009 – 12:45 PM
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Ryan Wilson

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It's pretty well established that Plaxico Burress is a pain in the ass to deal with. The Giants were willing to put up with it until Plax accidentally blew a hole in his thigh at a Manhattan night club last November (when, ironically, he was supposed to be rehabbing a tweaked hammy).

The team released him earlier this year and now Burress, while awaiting his legal fate, is lobbying other teams for a job. In most other professions, guys who shoot themselves -- intentionally or otherwise -- are automatically ruled out as potential employees. It's a sensible rule and one no reasonable person would question.

But unlike, say, bank tellers, it's a little easier to differentiate between average NFL wide receivers and great ones. Plax is the latter, and that's why there's a decent chance he'll be in the NFL again, as soon as the justice system is through with him.

In case some teams aren't clear on the specifics, Burress' former teammate, Tim Hasselbeck, appearing on ESPN's NFL Live, offers a kindly reminder:
"When you're looking at Plaxico Burress, there's no doubt that he can be a dominant receiver at times on Sundays," Hasselbeck said. "We've seen it. But with that being said, I played with the guy. I was in the locker room with him for two years. He's a disaster as a teammate. He's a disaster as a guy that you have to coach.
I wonder what he means by that.
"And what do I mean by that? If you want to wait for a guy to show up to meetings, if you want to have to beg a guy to run full-speed in practice, if you want a guy that would disappear in games because he doesn't get the ball early -- then look, Plaxico Burress is your guy.

"But if you don't want those distractions, and you don't want to deal with the other headaches that come along with Plaxico Burress, then you better stay away from him."
So, basically: what we've been hearing about Burress since he arrived in New York in 2005. But here's the thing: he was able to stay out of trouble in Pittsburgh during the first five years of his career. The two most memorable off-field incidents with the Steelers? In 2004, he didn't tell the team he was skipping minicamp to celebrate Mother's Day with his family (his mom had died two years before), and, in 2003, getting a ticket for carrying an open container of alcohol.

Plaxico Burress Saga

    On April 3, the Giants released Plaxico Burress, ending his turbulant four-year stay in New York. Click through to see more how Burress' relationship with the Giants unraveled.

    Jeff Zelevansky, Getty Images

    David Tyree had the highlight reel catch of Super Bowl XLII, but Burress had the game-winner. It was easily Burress' top moment as a pro, but what followed was far less rewarding.

    Jim McIsaac, Getty Images

    Unhappy with his contract situation, Burress skipped the Giants' mandatory 2008 summer mini-camp and then sat out much of the preseason with an ankle injury. Then, shortly before the start of the regular season, the Giants agreed to a five-year, $35-million contract extension with the disgruntled receiver.

    Evan Pinkus, Getty Images

    No mandatory mini-camp, no preseason, no problem. In New York's Week 1 win over Washington, Burress made 10 catches for 133 yards.

    Seth Wenig, AP

    In a stunning Week 6 Monday night loss to Cleveland, Burress scored a touchdown but was otherwise shut down, all part of a sub-par season that saw Burress fail to top 100 yards receiving in any game other than the opener.

    Diamond Images / Getty Images

    Burress had a bit of a meltdown in the Giants' Oct. 19 win over San Francisco. The NFL fined him $45,000 for his actions in that game, when he verbally abused an official and threw a ball into the stands. That came just two weeks after the Giants suspended Burress for their Oct. 5 game for missing a team meeting.

    Evan Pinkus, Getty Images

    In an easy New York win over Baltimore during Week 11, Burress tweaked his hamstring, which had him set to be inactive in Week 12 against Washington - until he suffered a more serious leg injury.

    Kathy Willens, AP

    Out at a club, just hours after it was reported that he would be inactive against the Redskins because of his hamstring injury, Burress suffered a gunshot wound to his leg - self-inflicted by accident.

    Stephen Dunn, Getty Images

    Burress surrendered to police Dec. 1 and was charged with two counts of illegal handgun possession after shooting himself in the leg at a nightclub. The Giants also suspended him for the rest of the 2008-09 season.

    Louis Lanzano, AP

    Burress found himself the subject of a lawsuit in late December, allegedly for striking a woman with his car. Then in March, Burress was cited for four traffic tickets on one stop - speeding, improper display of tags, improper lane change and improper window tinting.

    Chris McGrath, Getty Images

Maybe then-head coach Bill Cowher didn't allow Burress to run amok -- except that Burress' 2008 autobiography (seriously) states otherwise. Via the Fifth Down Blog, here's how Plax remembers his pre-draft interview with the Steelers in 2000:
I was supposed to meet with them at two in the afternoon. But I slept through it. I got a call from Coach Bill Cowher that afternoon and he said, "We missed you, what happened? I flew all the way here to see you work out." I said, "Coach, my bad, I'm just dead tired." So we met the next day before my workout and talked. I didn't care at the time and Coach Cowher was cool because he understood I was being honest with him. I told him, "I'll make it up to you and we'll do it tomorrow."
It gets better: when Burress met with Bill Parcells, he admitted that he "looked terrible and still smelled of alcohol," after going out the night before because his "boys won the national championship last night and we were up all night partying."

Shorter version, as Fifth Down's Toni Monkovic wrote last month: Burress has been enabled his entire career, and, consequently, he has "practically been conditioned to believe he can get his way."

There are worse ways to go through life -- well, up till you shoot yourself and face jail time, anyway.
Filed under: Sports