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Past circumstances unlikely to reunite Burress with Coughlin

Written by Kyle Flippin
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In an interview with ESPN's Stephen A. Smith Monday, newly free wide receiver Plaxico Burress seemed to put to bed any hope of reuniting with the Giants, as he characterized his relationship with head coach Tom Coughlin as "ambivalent" during his four years in New York. Burress suggested that Coughlin's hard-nosed, disciplinarian ways made it difficult to communicate with his head coach and that Burress' rebellious actions reflected a frustration with what he felt was a lack of respect from his coach. Burress pointed to the sharp contrast that existed with his relationship with Coughlin to that of his head coach in his first five years in the NFL, Bill Cowher. In Burress' words: "I had a relationship with Bill Cowher inside of football and outside of football. He always had an open-door policy to where you could come talk to him or tell him what was on your mind. When that was taken away from me, I kind of felt it was like: 'I'm the coach,you are the player. It doesn't matter what you have to say.You just do what I tell you to do.'"

Burress seemed to be more excited about the possibility of playing for the other Meadowlands-dweller, the Jets, than returning to the Giants, saying: "It's been thought about. I am not going to sit here and front. For me to go from one side to the other side and win a championship in the same (city), how many people have done that?"

As likeable as the 2007 Giants were, and as much as they captivated the city throughout their run from 10-6 Wild Card team to World Champions, it is time to close the book on the Burress era. I think a lot of people would agree that when the Giants drafted Hakeem Nicks in the first round in 2009, Plax wasn't coming back. Really, most of us knew it was over after the gun went off that night in the Latin Quarter. I've felt like the Giants' original intentions were to have Burress through Eli Manning's early years; help him in his development and gain him some confidence, and that the contract extension they signed him to hours prior to the start of the 2008 season was more out of an obligation to reward him for all he had contributed to the Super Bowl championship the year before. Those aware of the goings-on with the Giants know that the gun incident was by no means the first problem between Coughlin and Burress. Burress spent his offseason training sessions in Miami, with tight end Jeremy Shockey, rather than at the Giants' East Rutherford, NJ complex. Coughlin benched Burress early in a 2006 game in which Burress dropped one ball and fumbled another. Burress also missed a lot of practice time as he battled injuries throughout much of the 2007 season, which challenged Coughlin's belief of playing those who display the best preparation. The season that ended with the nightclub incident also saw Coughlin suspend Burress for a game after being late to a team meeting. Perhaps most damning to the possibility of Burress returning to the Giants is the belief of many sources close to Coughlin, though not explicitly stated by Coughlin himself, that Coughlin blames Burress for the Giants not repeating as Super Bowl champions in 2008. If you think about it, there is a lot of sense behind this. The Giants were 11-1 at the time of the incident, on the heels of a championship. The two Super Bowl participants that season, the Steelers and Cardinals, were teams that the Giants beat that year in Pittsburgh and Arizona respectively. The lack of a true difference-maker on the outside clearly was a factor in the Giants' losing three of their final four regular season games of the 2008 season and an uninspiring divisional round loss at home to the Eagles.

Burress also expressed     It is unclear how many of Burress' physical gifts have been retained in the past two and a half years, but for someone who watched so many of his best games; the NFC Championship Game in Green Bay is jumping to mind; it will be a pleasure to see him play regardless what team he suits up for. On behalf of all NFL fans, I'd just like to say, "Welcome back, Plax".

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