|Ben Liebenberg / NFL|
|Plaxico Burress' winning touchdown reception late in Super Bowl XLII ended the Patriots' quest for perfection.|
There have been no winners and far too many losers in this lockout already. Confusion and uncertainty remain the norm, with it still possibly months before we get a resolution.
There is one player who might actually stand to gain something from these unusual circumstances, however, with the longer this labor strife endures actually working more in his favor: Plaxico Burress.
Burress remains incarcerated for bringing a gun into a club in New York and then accidentally discharging it, wounding himself and nearly injuring others. But he will be released next month, June 6 to be exact, just three days after the hearing at the U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals on the appeal of Judge Susan Nelson's decision to enjoin the lockout.
As Commissioner Roger Goodell established long ago, Burress is fully reinstated with the NFL upon his release and able to be signed by any team (under these circumstances, obviously, not until the lockout is ended). Burress will be 33 when he gets out -- younger than Terrell Owens and Randy Moss, other big-name receiver free agents this offseason. He will be a relatively young 33, having last played a game in 2008.
And if this labor struggle lingers into mid-July without a deal struck between the NFL and NFLPA, then Burress will have had upwards of six weeks to get into playing shape after his release. Furthermore, he would have the benefit of hitting the market at exactly the same time as everyone else, a huge factor when you consider that free agency originally was set to begin back in early March, with most teams filling needs and hitting their budgets before June in the old system.
No doubt there will be character questions and concerns with Burress. He comes with baggage. But one could just look to Michael Vick -- who plays an even more demanding position in terms of importance and preparation -- and how he has prospered post-incarceration, on field and off, for a template for success.
Getting out of New York would make sense, and a change of environs could be in order as it was for Vick. Teams such as the St. Louis Rams or Seattle Seahawks, in need of a receiver and with hopes of a division title, would make sense. Personally, I'd take a gamble on Burress -- and let's face it, any deal will be incentive-laden with lots of protections against any misdeeds -- before I'd spring for Moss or Owens.
Sure, it will take time for him to get his legs back and learn an offense ... but suddenly he's no more hamstrung from a learning-curve standpoint than any other unrestricted free agent given the bizarre sequence of this offseason. Like Vick, I anticipate Burress will learn from this mistake and its consequences and fully realize this will be his last chance to ever be compensated in this manner as a professional athlete again.
Burress, despite the rust, is still 6-foot-5. He's still an instant matchup issue and a beast in the red zone. He might not be the same quick-twitch and deep-threat guy, but I expect he will be plenty productive in time. Sign him to a three-year deal, provide him with a strong nucleus and support, and I believe he will flourish.
It's worth noting that from 2005-2008, Burress' time with the Giants, Moss (45), Owens (44) and Larry Fitzgerald (38) were the only receivers with more touchdown catches than Burress (33), and we know how Owens and Moss have slowed since then. Burress averaged an impressive 15.1 yards per catch in that span and clearly, as the Super Bowl displayed, has a knack for the big play at a big moment.
At a time when virtually every player -- with the possible exclusion of Reggie Bush -- is hoping for a speedy resolution to this labor mess, it would certainly behoove Burress to have it linger at least another month or longer.
Follow Jason La Canfora on Twitter @jasonlacanfora.