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All grown up, big-play Burress delivers on big stage


Lubeck
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GREEN BAY, Wis. -- He is the tall, angular receiver who is the focal point of his team's Super Bowl passing offense, a player who has at times been in the news for reasons other than production, maybe a misstep here or a lack of effort there or even having the malcontent label tossed next to his name.

 

Randy Moss?

 

Nope, it's Plaxico Burress.

 

When the New York Giants meet the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII in Glendale, Ariz., in two weeks, they can look to Burress as a big reason they are there. His 11-catch, 154-yard day helped the Giants beat the Green Bay Packers 23-20 in overtime Sunday night to earn the Super Bowl berth.

 

Burress toyed with Packers Pro Bowl cornerback Al Harris, beating his man-press coverage for 10 of those 11 catches. It got to the point in the press box where some writers were wondering if Harris should be pulled.

 

Some of the catches Burress made would have been tough enough in regular conditions, but downright amazing in weather where the wind-chill was minus-23 degrees.

 

"Man, I didn't feel the ball hit my hands one time," Burress said. "I was in a groove. I felt like I was running on air the whole night. I never got cold. I didn't feel it."

 

He paused for a second.

 

"Did it look like I didn't feel it?" he asked.

 

Sure did. At 6-feet-5, Burress is a tall receiver who had four inches and 40 pounds on Harris. When Harris got his hands on Burress at the line of scrimmage, he threw him away like a father does a son in a two-hand-touch game in the backyard.

 

At one point, it got so heated between the two that Harris was on the Giants side of the football between plays jawing with Burress.

 

"We were having fun out there," said Burress, who lives in Pompano Beach, Fla., which happens to be the hometown of one Al Harris. "He's a Pro Bowl corner. We knew he was going to play physically, try to push us around. I knew it could come down to me making plays against him."

 

Harris did pick off an Eli Manning pass while covering Burress, but that was nullified by an illegal contact penalty he was called for while putting his hands on Burress.

 

Since the Patriots score so much and so quickly, the Giants will likely have to try to keep up when the two teams meet. When they met in the regular-season finale, they were able to do so for much of the game. Manning tossed four touchdown passes that night, with Burress catching two of them.

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But in the first two playoff games, victories at Tampa Bay and Dallas, Burress caught just five passes for 43 yards and no touchdowns. He said he had a lot of doubles in those games, which led to the lack of production. That changed when the Packers went to single coverage.

 

As the Giants coaches in the box ran to meet their jubilant team after the game, one of the coaches could be heard screaming, "Our receivers can't run by their corners. Yeah, right."

 

Run by might not be the right description, but you get the idea. Burress turned one of the league's best corners into somebody who needed time in the burn unit.

 

For most of this season, Burress has been battling a torn ligament in his right ankle, suffered in the Giants' Week 2 loss to the Packers when Harris stepped on his foot. It is an injury that prevented him from practicing every week, yet he showed up on game days. It was so bad he even pondered season-ending surgery after the first month of the season. He's also played with a broken pinkie and a bad knee.

 

Burress finished the regular season with 70 catches and 12 touchdowns, but there were some Giants coaches who thought his lack of practice time began to show up some. When Burress was finally able to practice late in the season, he and Manning began to click and it has continued throughout the playoffs.

 

"I feel like I'm starting to get into football shape," Burress said. "I'm getting my legs under me, making the moves that I was able to make before I got hurt. It felt good to get some practice time."

 

Now in his eighth season in the league, Burress is one of those players who has matured in front of our eyes. When he came in with the Pittsburgh Steelers, the labels of malcontent and me-first player seemed to always follow him.

 

He had some off-field troubles. He was charged with public intoxication. He seemed aloof, non-caring. But that changed after he married in 2005 and son Elijah was born.

 

Burress grew up. Even when he was getting a reputation as a questionable character, I always heard otherwise. Jacksonville Jaguars running back Fred Taylor is one of his closest friends in the league, and Taylor is as good a man as there is in the game. Like men usually hang together, and Taylor always told me that Burress was a good dude.

 

Burress also changed the way he worked. He became more of a student of the game. He watched film, filled notebooks on players he faced. He didn't run the wrong routes. The coaches trusted him more. Once thought to be a lazy player, he is not that anymore.

 

He also smiles a lot more, and is personable with the media. In the locker room after Sunday's game, he was one of the last players to take off his uniform, surrounded by the media and basking in it.

 

"Let the man dress," one of his teammates yelled.

 

"I've got to get going," Burress said.

 

Of course he sat there for 10 more questions before making a move. This was his moment in the Giants' biggest game. He wasn't going to let it go, not after all he has endured to get where is today.

 

Malcontent. Lazy. Selfish. Aloof.

 

They've all been used to describe Moss, but they've also been used to describe Burress. Both have done a lot this season to dispel those notions and they also are both on teams that are one victory away from a Super Bowl championship.

 

First off great article. Burress really has matured this offseason (working with Eli) and this season.

 

Second, I think we should get Shockey married. He needs to settle down and get himself a kid. That seems to be what makes these players with personality issues settle in and mature.

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I think you are actually right with the shockey comment he does need to settle down relax and focus more of his energy on football ( not saying he does not work hard) that is just how i see it from this far away view...

 

but this is a great read and very interesting it is great to see guys like plaxico change thier ways and mature into this kind of person

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Excellent article.

 

We are going to need all hands on deck to have a chance against the Patriots. And outside of Manning, the one guy that will need to come up huge is Plaxico.

 

But the more I think about it, the more I believe in Plaxico, Toomer, and Smith. Throw in the Boss man and either Jacobs and Bradshaw, and really, the Patriots defense will have their hands full, too.

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Excellent article.

 

We are going to need all hands on deck to have a chance against the Patriots. And outside of Manning, the one guy that will need to come up huge is Plaxico.

 

But the more I think about it, the more I believe in Plaxico, Toomer, and Smith. Throw in the Boss man and either Jacobs and Bradshaw, and really, the Patriots defense will have their hands full, too.

 

Well I would say Ross and Madison also.

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Well I would say Ross and Madison also.

 

 

Lug, I agree with this, but throw in Webster. I think Spidey has played himself into the starters role. I would bet my paycheck that Madison will be the nickel against the Patriots yet again. Not that it is an easy assignment - Wes Welker. All the matchups will be tough. I assume it will be Ross on Moss, Webster on Stallworth, and Madison on Welker. All tough matchups. Another guy that needs to have a big game is Johnson. He is going to need to help a lot on the NE receivers, while watching for Watson and even Kevin Faulk on 3rd downs.

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Anyone find the irony/humor in Plax naming his som Elijah?

Eli's name is "Elisha" not "Elijah".

 

Bibilically, Elijah is the spiritual father of Elisha. After Elijah ascended to Heaven, Elisha took over as God's annointed Prophet and performed many great miracles.

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