NEW YORK (AP) — Plaxico Burress is back in the Big Apple — with the New York Jets.
The former Super Bowl star with the Giants, recently released from prison after serving 20 months on a gun charge, reached an agreement in principle Sunday on a one-year deal with the Jets, the team said.
Burress, who turns 34 on Aug. 12, caught the game-winning touchdown in the Giants’ upset of the unbeaten New England Patriots in the 2008 Super Bowl, before his career derailed after he accidentally shot himself in a New York nightclub later that year.
His second chance at the NFL comes with a team that was interested in him a few years ago before he went to prison. Now, he’ll likely join the recently re-signed Santonio Holmes as Mark Sanchez’s top receivers.
Burress wrote on his Twitter page: “East Coast here I come!” Sanchez retweeted his new receiver and added: “Paperwork in hand??? Haha welcome to the squad.”
Burress met with the Pittsburgh Steelers, where he spent his first five seasons, on Saturday after sitting down with Giants coach Tom Coughlin on Friday. Burress mentioned he would be interested in playing for several teams, including the Jets — and didn’t even need to meet with general manager Mike Tannenbaum and coach Rex Ryan to make his decision.
ESPN first reported the deal, saying it is for more than $3 million fully guaranteed. Burress was in Los Angeles on his way to a meeting with the San Francisco 49ers, ESPN reported, but canceled that trip when the Jets contacted him.
Because of the NFL post-lockout rules, Burress can’t practice with the team until Thursday. But clearly, the Jets are confident the former Pro Bowl receiver has a lot left as they try for a Super Bowl run even though he hasn’t played in the NFL since 2008.
Burress gives Sanchez a big receiver — he’s 6-foot-5 — with sure hands and a red-zone presence to complement Holmes, Jerricho Cotchery, Dustin Keller and a solid running game with Shonn Greene and LaDainian Tomlinson.
The Jets are hoping Burress can revive his career the way Michael Vick did with the Eagles after serving 21 months in prison for his involvement in a dogfighting ring.
Burress pleaded guilty in August 2009 to attempted criminal possession of a weapon after accidentally shooting himself in the thigh at a Manhattan nightclub in November 2008, accepting a two-year prison term. He was released about three months early for good behavior, but will be on parole for two years.
He was told to get and keep a job, undergo substance abuse testing, obey any curfew established by his Florida parole officer, support his family and undergo any anger counseling or other conditions required by his parole officer.
Burress has 505 catches for 7,845 yards and 55 touchdowns in his NFL career with the Steelers and Giants.
He caught 35 passes for 698 yards and five touchdowns in his final year with Pittsburgh in 2004 as the Steelers slowly broke in Ben Roethlisberger, a rookie at the time. Burress moved on to New York, where he thrived catching balls from Eli Manning, but often ran into trouble with Coughlin.
The move softens the blow for the Jets after losing out on cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, who was New York’s top priority after re-signing Holmes. But Asomugha surprisingly signed with Philadelphia, and the Jets were forced to turn their attention elsewhere.
The addition of Burress likely means Braylon Edwards will not be back after nearly two seasons in New York. Edwards, a free agent, repeatedly said he was interested in returning, but it was believed the Jets wouldn’t be able to keep both him and Holmes.
So, the Jets took a chance on Burress, hoping he’ll be able to help the passing game. Ryan, in a voice message to Jets fans after the lockout ended, said the team planned to have Sanchez “let it fly a little more than we have in the past.”
Burress appeared to have a good visit with the Steelers on Saturday. He caught up with former teammates — including Roethlisberger and Hines Ward — and met with owner Art Rooney, director of football operations Kevin Colbert and coach Mike Tomlin.
Tomlin called the sit-down “good,” while Colbert was decidedly open when talking about the nature of the discussion, saying: “Obviously he’s interested. Drew (Rosenhaus), his agent, is interested, and we’re certainly interested.”
That came a day after Burress spent 90 minutes talking with Coughlin. Despite not meeting with him during his visit, Manning said he would be happy to have Burress back with the Giants, but added that he wasn’t going to lobby management to re-sign him.
Manning and Burress combined for 33 touchdown receptions from 2005-08, with none more important than the winning TD in the Super Bowl victory over New England in February 2008, when Manning won the MVP.
Burress was drafted eighth overall by Pittsburgh in 2000 out of Michigan State and quickly emerged as a game-changing receiver. He had 66 catches for 1,008 yards in his second season and followed that up with a career-high 78 catches and 1,325 yards receiving.
He left Pittsburgh after the 2004 season, and signed a six-year, $25 million deal with the Giants. Burress made an immediate impact, catching 76 passes for 1,214 yards in his first season in New York.
He caught 10 touchdown passes the following season, and 12 the next year — but the biggest came in the Super Bowl in Arizona. After saying he thought the Giants would beat the previously undefeated Patriots, Burress went out and caught the winning touchdown pass from Manning in the closing minutes — despite playing with a knee problem.
Burress said he was upset with his contract the following offseason and showed up for minicamp, but didn’t practice. He threatened to hold out of training camp, but joined the team and signed a five-year extension. He was suspended for a game in 2008, when he didn’t show up at the team’s facility and the Giants couldn’t reach him for a few days.
But the real troubles were only beginning.
He left the Giants’ game against Arizona on Nov. 23, 2008, with a hamstring injury and didn’t return. Five days later, Burress accidentally shot himself. That was the last straw for the Giants, who released him in April 2009 — a few months before Burress began serving his prison sentence.
While in prison, Burress insisted he would play in the NFL again despite such a long layoff, and the Jets were willing to let him prove he can still be a productive playmaker.
AP Sports Writers Tom Canavan in East Rutherford, N.J., and Will Graves in Pittsburgh contributed to this report.