The big story in Birds-land over the weekend actually came out of New York on Saturday. Gary Myers wrote a feature for the New York Daily News about currently incarcerated, former-Giants WR Plaxico Burress, and his impending release from prison. Burress has been out of football since November '08 after accidentally shooting himself in the leg at a nightclub, but he is eyeing a return to the gridiron this year.
Which wasn't exactly news--Burress has always maintained he would play again. The interesting part, according to Myers' article, is whenever the 6-5, 232 lbs. wide receiver begins selling his services, the Eagles supposedly will be "first in line" to see what he's all about.
Let's face it, much of this idea is predicated on the Michael Vick signing in '09, and Myers makes no bones about it.
"Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie and coach Andy Reid, having already been through the post-prison experience with Vick, might be in a better position to handle any public backlash about adding another former inmate. They could also help Burress with his transition back to the NFL."
Personally, I find the assertion that because Vick has been a success story, the Eagles are suddenly lining up to sign ex-convicts is thin at best, and really quite ridiculous.
Vick's was a unique situation. He had Donovan McNabb lobbying for him, and here for a season to act as a mentor. More important, the front office was willing to take a chance in part because, at age 29, Vick still had upside. He's the starting quarterback now, but many observers thought the franchise would attempt to rehab his image for one season before attempting a trade. However, there surprisingly was no market last off-season, and the rest is history.
Plaxico's only upside is he may have a season or two of quality ball left, which is reason enough for management to perform their due dilligence. Look at it from the team's standpoint though. The Eagles don't need another wide receiver, and turning 34 years old this August, Burress has no future trade value. Not only that, his arrival means one less roster spot for a younger player, and he could potentially block a prospect such as Riley Cooper from seeing meaningful playing time.
Which is not to say I'm entirely against the possibility of adding Burress. He was one of the true difference makers at receiver right up until and through his final injury-plagued season. He caught 22 touchdown passes between 06-07, and has four 1,000 yard seasons in his nine year NFL career. The numbers don't even entirely do Burress justice, as his size created difficult match-up problems for defenses on a weekly basis.
With the Eagles, I could see him playing a small role, particularly inside the red zone where bigger targets become even greater assets in the passing game. Where else can you really see him having an impact though? DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin obviously aren't coming off the field very much, and Jason Avant has been one of the club's most reliable receivers from the slot.
In the end, the only way this works is if a number of egos could be kept in check, first and foremost being Plaxico's. Would Burress accept a reduced role, and presumably less money, while he worked his way back into the league?
Because much of the premise is based on the Vick and Burress situations being somehow similar, when they are not really at all. Vick was far more untouchable coming out of prison. Besides the horrific nature of a criminal past that inflamed activists, he was seen as an athlete who never took his profession seriously. With the exception of the part where Burress shoots himself, which is almost humorous anyway, football fans have long since been desensitized to athletes who own weapons.
The list of teams who are willing to take a shot at Plaxico (get it?) will be slightly longer than those who would merely consider bringing Vick into the fold two years ago, and certainly more receiver-needy. The Eagles have surprised plenty of times before, so you can never rule it out completely, but it's difficult to envision them as one of the first into the fray here, as the report suggests.
>> Former Giants WR Plaxico Burress out of lockup on June 6 [NY Daily News]