Burress' teammates pledge support, hope for best in his case

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Osi Umenyiora isn't a legal expert when it comes to troubled New York Giants teammate Plaxico Burress and his scheduled court appearance next week on a felony gun possession charge.

Umenyiora is just an optimist, and the two-time Pro Bowl defensive end believes, after talking to legal experts, that Burress will play for the Giants next season. Umenyiora hasn't even considered the alternative, a mandatory minimum of 3 1/2 years in prison if Burress isn't able to plead to a lesser charge and is convicted of the felony.

Umenyiora back at work

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"I have talked to law enforcement officials and they say to me, that for a first-time offender, he would get five years' probation, that's the maximum with a first-time offender," Umenyiora said Tuesday after taking part in the team's voluntary workouts at Giants Stadium. "He has one of the best lawyers money can buy, and he's a very, very good guy, no matter what you hear about him. He is a good person. Hopefully, the Lord will be on his side."

Umenyiora has exchanged text messages with Burress, and the wide receiver who caught the game-winning touchdown pass in the Super Bowl 13 months ago said he was doing well.

Umenyiora acknowledged that nobody can say with certainty what will happen to Burress, who was charged after accidentally shooting himself in the right thigh in a New York City nightclub in late November. However, Umenyiora knows what Burress means to the Giants, who lost four of their final five games after the wide receiver was suspended for the final four games of the regular season, fined and placed on the non-football injury list, meaning he also couldn't appear in the playoffs. The Giants finished 12-5, losing at home in the playoffs to the Philadelphia Eagles.

"It's obvious that when he was on the football field, we had that outstanding running game, the good o-line, Eli (Manning) throwing the ball well and that deep threat," Umenyiora said.

Without Burress as a deep threat, the Giants' offense struggled.

One of Burress' closest friends on the team, halfback Brandon Jacobs, said the uncertainty about the wide receiver's future is a concern.

"Definitely, he is a great athlete and somebody that you cannot afford not to have," Jacobs said. "We want Plaxico back on this football team. Like I just said earlier, we have everybody that we need to win."

Jacobs said it seems like an eternity since Burress was in the locker room.

"We're still hoping and praying that everything is all right with him," Jacobs added. "Being such a close friend, I want him out and doing everything he can to help his family during life."

The Giants have refused to let Burress take part in the voluntary offseason program until his legal problems are settled.

"Now he is trying to better himself and stay in shape," Jacobs said. "I think he will be fine."

Center Shaun O'Hara hasn't had any contact with Burress.

"We are hoping for the best," O'Hara said. "We certainly want him to be able to come through this and join us back. We want him to get back to work with us. I know that's what is best for him. I know that's what he wants, too. We're supporting him. He is our teammate. I think this team handles adversity pretty well, and this will be no different."

Manning said that this is obviously a stressful time for Burress.

"We are thinking about him and hoping the best, just as a friend and teammate and everything he is going through we're hoping the best outcome can come out of this," Manning said.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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