Plaxico Burress was curiously unapologetic.
Noting that he hadn’t “lost any sleep” during his suspension, Burress returned to Giants practice on Monday following the team’s 44-6 rout of the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday. Burress had been suspended for two weeks and one game after Burress skipped a team meeting two weeks ago without notifying the Giants.
“They feel that they needed to do that,” Burress said in a conference call Monday afternoon. “I took it with a grain of salt and kept on moving.”
The question now is whether Burress is moving in the same direction as the Giants.
Sunday’s 38-point margin was the largest for the Giants since 1972, and it certainly seemed like New York was fine without its top receiver.
Actually, it was better than fine.
Up and down the lineup, the Giants were brilliant. There was Burress’ replacement, Domenik Hixon, whose 102 yards and a touchdown all came in the first half. Wideout Sinorice Moss chipped in two touchdowns, as did running back Brandon Jacobs, who also rumbled for 136 yards. And then there was quarterback Eli Manning, who finished with 267 yards and two TDs, plus a 136.6 passer rating, the highest single-game rating of his career.
As a team, the Giants steamrolled the Seahawks for 523 total yards, 342 in the first half.
All of this was done with Burress sitting at home.
If nothing else, the Giants sent a clear message to the league that they are the team to beat, with weapons up and down the lineup, especially at the skill positions. As for Burress, the message the Giants sent to him was crystal clear: Show up, or ship out, talent notwithstanding.
That was the resounding message over the summer when New York shipped Jeremy Shockey to the New Orleans Saints for second and fifth round picks.
To be sure, the Giants didn’t get the better end of the deal in talent, but Shockey’s replacement, Kevin Boss, is far better for the locker room makeup of this team.
Analysis believed one of the reasons for Manning’s stunning development at the end of last season was because of Shockey’s absence. With one less voice shouting in the huddle, Manning was better able to assert himself in leading the Giants to the Super Bowl.
The move was signed to put the sum of the whole ahead of its parts.
Could Burress be next?
For now, it’s unlikely.
Sunday’s dominant performance without Burress aside, the Giants are still lead by Burress’ 18 receptions this season after leading the Giants in the same category with 70 last year.
Certainly, without Burress’ 11 receptions for 151 yards against the Packers in the National Football Conference Championship game last season, the Giants would not be reigning champs today.
But Burress’ defiant post-suspension behavior is peculiar. Although the Giants are unquestionably a more talented and dangerous team with Burress on the field, Sunday’s performance showed the Giants have a deep depth chart, and can be successful without Burress.
Burress’ best approach to defuse the situation would’ve been an apology along with a promise to put the team before himself.
That, however, was not Burress’ response.
“What was I supposed to do, cry?” said Burress.
No. Burress was just supposed to make sure it didn’t happen again.
But based on his response, and his unwillingness to admit that he made a mistake, it seems like this will continue to happen again in the future. The message of a team-first concept seems to be lost on Burress.
One missed practice won’t stamp Burress ticket out of New York, but with his current attitude and his track record, he’s certainly heading in that direction.
Said Burress: “I took it, walked out and left.”
If Burress is not careful, the Giants might let him walk out for good next time.