Why Has Plaxico Burress Been Chillin’ At His Crib On Sundays?

Plaxico Burress is a Super Bowl-champion wide receiver. Yet, five games into the 2012 NFL season, he is a couch potato with no job. Plax must have fallen off of the couch on Monday night, while watching the wack Jets receiving core. Plax says he can jump right off the coach and score three TDs. He has the time. It’s got to get boring opening juice boxes all day. And he needs that scratch. In August, the IRS reported that Burress owes over $59,000 dollars in back taxes from 2007 to the state of New York.

Burress is suffering from the aging troublemaker-superstar syndrome. T.O. and Chad Johnson know about it, too. T.O. is a Hall of Famer and Chad was a perennial Pro Bowler; but their age and perceived high-maintenance limit their appeal. They might as well be “eatin’ cheese sandwiches/for the weekend”; because they definitely aren’t playing ball. Matter fact, they’re like Brandy, “Sitting Up in My Room,” waiting on the NFL to call. 

When he’s not home chilling, Plax is playing the media circuit, campaigning for some love from a league that’s shut its doors. T.O. has taken his case to Twitter, practically begging the Jets for a gig. His locker room shenanigans with Philly and Dallas are road blocks to his journey back into the NFL. Johnson has scrapped the self-centered name Ochocinco, as a way of cleaning his slate and starting anew. He campaigned for jobs via reality TV and actually got a shot with Miami. But Johnson got cut after an arrest for allegedly delivering a WWE head butt to his wife.

For Plax, it’s a far cry from January 2008, when he galloped into the left- corner end zone at University of Phoenix Stadium and corralled the game-winning TD in Super Bowl XLII. That night, it was all good for Plax. It was the last good choice he made.

Less than a year later, Plax served 20 months in prison for the bizarre self-inflicted shooting at Manhattan’s LQ night club in November ’08. Linebacker Antonio Pierce had to stash the burner and Burress limped off the scene like a mobster in a shootout. Plax lost everything faster than you can say, “safety stupid.”

The Giants moved on without him. Burress returned from his bid and signed a one-year deal with the Jets in 2011. Plax emerged as a red-zone threat, scoring eight TDs and winning The Sporting News Comeback Player of the Year Award. But, for whatever reason, it wasn’t enough. The Jets didn’t want him back. In fact, no team in the league wanted the 6-foot-5, 232-pound game-changer.

Why not?  The Jets are decimated with injuries. Stephen “I drop Bombs like Flex” Hill, Jeremy Kerley and Chaz Schilens comprise a shaky bunch. The vaunted Ground-N-Pound rushing attack has been more like the Grunt-N-Puke. I find myself thinking, “What if Plax was here?” I’m sure NFL GM’s are wondering the same thing. The Rams, Bucs, Panthers and Jaguars all need major receiver upgrades. For some reason, Burress isn’t an option. Plax’s situation is similar to NBA great Allen Iverson’s. Iverson had an illustrious, but controversial career. He left the NBA in ’09, because his ego skewed his reality. He couldn’t handle coming off the pine to shine in Memphis. That, combined with Iverson’s past legal transgressions, flaky practice habits and turbulent relationships, sealed his fate. These days, the illest lil’ man in NBA history is an afterthought.

Based on talent, Plax shouldn’t be begging for work. He’s unemployed because his decisions and social skills leave something to be desired. The Jets locker room fell apart, last season. Plax was a veteran in that locker room. Maybe Rex Ryan expected stronger veteran leadership from Plax. Was Plax missing team meetings and showing up late for practice again?  Nobody is slandering him, but no team will sign Burress, who insists he was a model citizen with the Jets. “I just went in and played the best I could,” said Plax in an interview with Black Sports Online. “I didn’t have a problem with anybody.”

Well, Plax needs to call whoever it is he pissed off and make peace. Then again, it could be about whom he didn’t call. 

Philly quarterback Mike Vick served 21 months in prison for dog fighting. Vick regained his career, because former NFL coach Tony Dungy mentored and facilitated Vick’s NFL rebirth. Dungy, a man of impeccable character, co-signed the authenticity of Vick’s remorseful transformation. The Eagles organization also showed a personal concern for Vick, rebuilding his image through a meticulous agenda of community work and disciplined living.

Plax doesn’t have an iconic figure to vouch for him. His reputation as rule-breaker doesn’t help either. He developed this reputation as a problem player with Pittsburgh. He was fined for showing up late to meetings and missing practice. Despite amassing 4,164 yards and 22 TD’s in 5 seasons with the Steelers, Burress’ free agent options were limited in 2004. The Steelers decided to pass on his unprofessionalism, so Burress signed a six-year $25 million deal with the Giants. Plax excelled in NY, but his diva attitude continued. Burress was fined at least 40 to 50 times by New York for various insubordinate behaviors.

His actions were tolerated because he was a Triple OG on the field. After the Super Bowl, however, everything went downhill. All of the bad choices caught up to Plax and culminated in one big bang. He got suspended in September ‘08 for violating team rules. In October, he was banged in the head with $45,000 worth of fines for inappropriate post game comments, unsportsmanlike conduct, verbal abuse of an official, and for throwing a ball in the stands. In June, the Giants fined him another $25,000 for refusing to practice.

Since joining the NFL in 2000, Plax has also been sued at least nine times. His behavior has exceeded fiscal irresponsibility, at times. He’s been fined for reckless driving, noise and public intoxication. Police visited his New Jersey home twice in ‘08 for domestic disputes.

Burress has obviously dropped the ball on establishing good relationships – something of which could also be said about T.O., Johnson and Iverson. Stars like Chris Carter and Michael Irvin had troubles, but they also had a way with people. Burress can’t find an NFL coach, GM or owner to vouch for him. They say talent cuts through a lot of the B.S. At 24 years old it does, but not at age 35 with eroding skills. 

Plax can still ball. As he reflects on his career, he says, “If I don't play anymore, it won't be because I can't play anymore or can't get open." And he’s right. It won’t be because of that. It’ll be because he never set his chess board up correctly. He never impressed anyone off the football field. Never cut his coaches any slack. So now that he needs a break, there’s no one there to give it to him.

JR Gamble joined The Shadow League in 2012. The General Manager of Content & Social Media is in his 25th year of covering sports and culture professionally. He has covered a wide variety of major sports and entertainment topics across different mediums, including radio, newspapers, magazines and national TV. His passion is baseball, the culturing of baseball and preserving and documenting the historically-impactful accomplishments and contributions of African-Americans in baseball.