After spending nearly two years in the Oneida Correctional Facility in Rome, New York, Plaxico Burress became a free man yesterday. Burress was serving time after being indicted by a grand jury on two counts of criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree and a single count of reckless endangerment in the second degree. The 33-year-old wide receiver will now look to return to the NFL. That is, assuming that there are games being played next season.
Plax has been a highly effective receiver since breaking into the league in 2000. When playing a full season, the Michigan State alum has never amassed fewer than 860 yards. He excelled in New York as a red zone target, presenting various matchup problems for shorter defensive backs.
He now faces his toughest challenge yet. Not having played organized football since 2008, Burress will need to quickly get in game-shape and learn a new playbook. This will be even more difficult in an offseason where team workouts will be limited. Unlike most of the other players at his position, however, Plax doesn't rely on speed or quickness. The reason that he was able to become one of the league's best receivers prior to his prison sentence was because of his size, football IQ, and ball skills. Burress knew how to find seams in opposing secondaries. All Eli would have to do was throw the ball within his vicinity and Burress was almost guaranteed to come down with it.
So, how much will these two years away from football hurt Burress? In those two years, the former Steeler's body was not enduring the same pounding that he otherwise would have received playing in the NFL. We know one thing: he will be fresh. And then there's the fact that Burress has reportedly stayed in shape, working out four times a week during his imprisonment. How much different is that from what most NFL players are currently doing?
It's going to take a while for Burress to get acclimated with his new team, to learn a new offense. But once he steps on the field for the first time - presumably in a preseason game - Plax will go back to being a highly-effective NFL receiver. A player as skilled as Plaxico Burress doesn't just lose his skills over a two-year period. Time is all the Virginia native will need. Michael Vick did the same thing...and he's a quarterback - the position requiring probably the largest overall skill set (mental, physical, instincts). You don't think Plax will be able to come back as a wideout?
Burress was seen this morning wearing a Philadelphia Phillies hat. Hint, hint. The Philadelphia Eagles would be a good fit for Plax. A nightmare scenario for a defensive coordinator:game-planning against two of the fastest receivers in the league (DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin) while simultaneously having to account for one of the tallest. Burress would also help a young developing quarterback; say Josh Freeman? Sam Bradford?
Wherever he ends up, Burress will be successful. He won't be a number one receiver, he won't get a big contract. Regardless, Plaxico Burress will help someone next year.