There hasn't been a rush of teams flocking to sign wide receiver Plaxico Burress following the legal developments Monday that could allow him to play a full schedule in 2009. However, three teams have not backed off their interest. Burress' lawyer has been made available to two of those teams, according to Burress' agent, Drew Rosenhaus, who declined to name any of the franchises.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers reached out to Burress personally earlier this spring. The New York Jets and Chicago Bears are the other teams believed to be interested in the 6-foot-5 wideout, who caught the game-winning touchdown for the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII, but was released by the team last season after a series of off-field problems.
The crowning blow was Burress accidentally shooting himself in the leg with an unlicensed gun in a New York City nightclub. His arrest on felony gun possession charges led to a team suspension and, eventually, the end of his career with the Giants. A preliminary trial on those charges was adjourned until September and the projected proceedings are expected to push the key trial into 2010 -- after the season.
"We believe the path was cleared for him to play through the year and to sign with a team," Rosenhaus said in an interview with NFL.com Monday afternoon.
Rosenhaus said he thinks that he will be able to find a taker for Burress between now and the start of training camp. A general manager not with one of the three aforementioned teams said he did not think teams that have avoided Burress thus far would alter their approach based on the developments.
An injury or necessity could change that thinking.
Might the wide-receiver-needy Dolphins consider adding Burress, one of the better red zone threats who could also stretch the field because of his size and speed? What about receiver-strapped St. Louis or Baltimore, which wants as much deep-field speed as possible on the field to let quarterback Joe Flacco air out his strong arm from time to time?
Then there are the Vikings, a team seriously in play to take a one-year flyer on quarterback Brett Favre. If they're willing to go for broke this season with Favre, why not Burress, who, packaged with Bernard Berrian and Percy Harvin, might give Minnesota one of the most threatening receiver sets in the league?
The door hardly seems shut for Burress but there are still potential impediments to spur some teams to avoid diving in.
Besides the possible disruption of legal proceedings, Burress's history of drawing fines and being disciplined for in-house infractions could eliminate him from consideration by teams concerned with chemistry. Several of Burress' teammates have vouched for his reliability but others have said he needs to mature and put the team above everything else.
Another pitfall is the possibility of discipline from the league before the judicial process has run its course -- a right exercised by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in the past. If Burress reaches a plea deal, Goodell could also act, just as he did when he suspended quarterback Michael Vick indefinitely shortly after Vick reached a plea on federal dogfighting charges in 2007.
"We reserve the right to make a decision at the appropriate time," league spokesman Greg Aiello said, declining further comment.
Said Rosenhaus: "We don't anticipate a suspension. There has been no adjudication with the case and he has no previous violations of the personal conduct policy. I don't believe a suspension is warranted."
While the policy is intended to target mostly repeat offenders, the NFL's personal conduct policy makes it clear that any involvement with gun-related activity could prompt league discipline.
Per the conduct policy, a player is subject to discipline if there is the: "Possession of a gun or other weapon in any workplace setting, including but not limited to stadiums, team facilities, training camp, locker rooms, team planes, buses, parking lots, etc...or unlawful possession of a weapon outside of the workplace."
All teams know the rule and if they don't, it is listed below the fourth paragraph of the personal conduct policy, so they don't have to look hard to find it. Goodell could have enforced the rule already but hasn't, which could be why Burress' handlers feel a suspension won't precede a hearing.
For a team to sign Burress, it will know it comes with the risk that he could be snatched away at any time. That might not deter some teams, especially if they can draw up a contract that works in their favor if Burress isn't available. Most teams won't even bother, though, leaving Burress with limited options and probably some semblance of regret for triggering the incident that's left things where they are.