NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has initiated a review of the felony weapons charge against former New York Giants
wide receiver Plaxico Burress, opting not to wait until the legal process runs its course before taking action.
There is no timetable as to if -- or when -- Goodell will make a decision whether to suspend Burress under the terms of the leagueâs personal-conduct policy. However, by starting the process now, Goodell could impose a suspension or other sanctions â- if he so decides â- before the start of the 2009 season.
Adolpho Birch, the NFLâs vice president of labor and law policy, notified Burress of the commissionerâs intentions Friday.
Goodellâs decision to move now could let teams â- as well as Burress, who is a free agent â- know the receiver's playing status and if it would be worthwhile for a club to sign him any time in the near future.
Burress, who caught the game-winning touchdown pass for the Giants in Super Bowl XLII against the New England Patriots, is awaiting trial for possessing an unlicensed handgun, which accidentally went off and shot him in the leg inside a New York nightclub last fall.
Burress, who has pleaded not guilty and is free on $100,000 bail, faces up to 3½ years in prison.
A recent preliminary hearing regarding the charges was adjourned until Sept. 23, and the actual trial might not start until after the 2009 season. That led Burressâ legal team and agent to say they believe the receiver would be available to play. However, Goodellâs move Friday could throw a wrench into Burressâ immediate future plans should the commissioner opt to impose punishment.
Goodell has that authority and has disciplined players -- most notably free-agent cornerback Adam Jones -- before the judicial process ran its course. The league's personal-conduct policy allows the commissioner to hand down judgment when he sees fit, and Goodell hasn't been lax in trying to hold players and teams accountable to the letter of the NFL law. The personal-conduct policy has well-stated rules about the commissionerâs policy to suspend players involved with guns and illegal gun possession.
Goodell also has levied significant punishment against players who have gone through the legal system, most recently giving Cleveland Browns wide receiver Donte Stallworth an indefinite suspension after he pleaded guilty to vehicular manslaughter. Stallworth is serving 30 days in jail, but his unpaid suspension from the NFL could last much longer.