EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Plaxico Burress has become an expert on playing with a sprained ankle over the past two seasons.
The New York Giants receiver played in 2006 on a gimpy left ankle that had to be surgically repaired after the season, and he's done the same thing on a sprained right one this year.
"Don't play!" Burress said with a straight face that lasted a couple seconds.
It broke up his news conference Wednesday.
Owens' status has been one of the major topics heading into Sunday's game in Dallas. The 12-year veteran who had 81 catches for 1,355 yards and an NFC-high 15 touchdowns suffered a high left ankle sprain against Carolina on Dec. 22 and has not practiced since.
Burress and the rest of the Giants have no doubt Owens will be ready on Sunday in Dallas. The five-time All-Pro -- he got his fifth nod Wednesday -- has been one of the difference makers in two wins over New York this season, catching nine passes for 212 yards and four touchdowns (22, 25, 47, 50 yards).
Burress doesn't mind that Owens is getting all the attention this week.
"We're going down there to win a football game," Burress said. "We are not really concerned about the whereabouts of one particular person on that team."
For the Giants (11-5), there is little chance they would be in this position without Burress. The eight-year veteran led the teams with 70 catches for 1,026 yards and a career-high 12 touchdowns.
What has made the performance so remarkable was Burress practiced less than 10 times this season. He sprained his right ankle early in training camp and has spent the season on the injury report, many weeks a game-time decision whether he would play.
"It's been difficult at times because you don't know how it's going to feel on a day-to-day basis," said Burress, who didn't practice again Wednesday. "Sometimes it feels better, sometimes worse. I just keep a positive mind frame about it.
"Just try to heal it up and get it better and don't use it as an excuse," he added. "I can go out and play well, or don't play well and just be humble about it. It's a tough thing to play with."
Burress said his current injury involves a ligament, but it won't require surgery.
Unlike Owens, Burress had two very different games against the Cowboys (13-3) this season. In the opener at Dallas, he had eight catches for 144 yards and a career-best three touchdowns. Dallas adjusted in the second game and limited him to four catches for 24 yards.
Burress said the play calls in the second game included a number of deep patterns aimed at getting the big play. He had a 60-yard TD catch in the season opener.
"This is basically just saying that they weren't going to let me have any big plays or go deep or anything like that," Burress said. "So there are always things that we can do different to counter that. So I'll just sit back and wait and be patient."
Tampa Bay employed a similar philosophy against Burress last weekend in the Giants' 24-14 win in the NFC wild-card game. Burress finished with four catches for 38 yards.
However, Eli Manning took the short throws the Bucs' defense offered and found Amani Toomer seven times for 74 yards and a touchdown.
"If we are getting the ball out quickly, if we are getting completions and first downs, then that is all we want," said Manning, who completed 20 of 27 throws for 185 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. "If something presents itself and we have a chance to take a shot, then you take it. Sometimes you call plays to take a shot, but nothing is there and you have to go underneath. So it just all depends on particular plays, what the defense is."
Burress has learned to be patient this year, both with his ankle and his chances.
"I'm impressed. I'm definitely impressed," Toomer said of Burress' play. "Not being able to practice and then performing at a high level in games, that's tough. I've been in situations where I couldn't practice and it affected me. It didn't seem to affect him at all."
It will be interesting to see how it affects Owens on Sunday.
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press