Jets' Burress finds meaning in Thanksgiving after prison term

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Plaxico Burress has big plans all mapped out for the Thanksgiving holiday.

Some deep-fried turkey at home, a couple of visits to a few old teammates for dessert. Most of all, though, the New York Jets wide receiver just wants to be around his family.

Burress was behind bars at this time the last two years, stuck in a prison cell after making a costly mistake.

"Man, it doesn't feel good," Burress said Wednesday. "I mean, knowing that you're away from your family on the holidays."

Burress served 20 months in prison on a gun charge after accidentally shooting himself in the right thigh almost exactly three years ago in a New York nightclub. He went from being a Super Bowl star to a convicted felon with an uncertain future.

While he counted the days, Burress was apart from his wife, Tiffany, and their children, Elijah and Giovanna -- who was born while he was away. Holidays, birthdays and celebrations, Burress missed them all for the better part of two years.

"Every day was difficult," Burress said. "But the Thanksgivings and the Christmases and the Easters and different things like that, and even Halloween, just not being able to be there and see the emotions and jubilation on your kids' faces and wife. It hits you a little harder. That's why every day is basically special to me."

Burress, then with the New York Giants, shot himself the night after Thanksgiving on Nov. 28, 2008, when the gun he was carrying in his sweat pants started slipping down his leg and went off as he grabbed it. The next several months were filled with court appearances, shame and embarrassment before he was convicted. He served his sentence in a correctional facility in upstate New York with thoughts of returning to his family -- and football -- getting him through those days.

Burress was released in June. A few weeks later, he was a member of the Jets.

An extra-special Thanksgiving for the Burress family? No doubt about it.

"You're talking about being where I was at for the past two years and now being able to be home," said Burress, who has 30 catches and a team-leading six touchdowns this season. "It's actually the first Thanksgiving I've had off while playing football. When I was in Pittsburgh and even when I was with the Giants, we would go in at 6 or 7 o'clock and be home before noon, so in that regard, it's being able to spend the whole day with the family and really just take it all in."

Burress spent Monday handing out turkeys and hams to people in his hometown of Virginia Beach, and he was back in New York -- cutting short his trip to Virginia -- speaking to kids at a school in Manhattan and donating computers. Thursday, though, was going to be all about family and friends for Burress.

"I'm here this year for the first time in two years, and we're just going to get together and do our thing," he said. "We're all blessed and thankful. I'm just enjoying it and looking forward to frying that turkey and getting after it."

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

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