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Manning believes in Giants' talent, with or without Burress

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Eli Manning would be happy to have Plaxico Burress back in a New York Giants uniform, but the quarterback won't lobby management to re-sign the Super Bowl XLII hero.

Manning made it clear that it's up to general manager Jerry Reese, coach Tom Coughlin and Giants ownership to decide whether or not to re-sign Burress now that the gifted wide receiver has finished his nearly two-year prison sentence for a weapons possession violation.

Either way, Manning believes the Giants possess the talent to have an explosive offense this season.

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Burress, who was released from prison June 6, visited with Coughlin, Reese and co-owner John Mara on Friday night at Giants headquarters in an attempt to convince them he could be a team player.

"I am going about my business and preparing myself," Manning said Saturday on the first day of practice at training camp. "I don't lobby for anybody. If this is the right spot for Plaxico, if the Giants and coach Coughlin are pleased with his attitude after talking to him, I am happy to have him.

"But I am preparing with the guys we have here and now. I am not out lobbying for (tight end) Kevin Boss either. I think he (Burress) is a great player and would love to have him. You know the Giants know what they are doing. If they want my two cents, my advice, then I'd be happy to talk to them about it."

Coughlin said he had a nice conversation with Burress and was happy they talked Friday night, but he wouldn't discuss what was said. The coach had said this was the first step in evaluating Burress, and he added there might be another.

Manning and Burress hooked up for 33 touchdowns between 2005 to 2008, with none being bigger than the winning score in the Super Bowl victory over the New England Patriots in February 2008, when the quarterback was the game's MVP.

Burress, however, also annoyed the quarterback by failing to show up for offseason workouts, and nothing was worse than when the receiver shot himself in the leg in a New York nightclub in November 2008. It led to his dismissal from the team, a loss that hurt the Giants' offense down the stretch and ultimately led to their early ouster from the playoffs in a season that seemed headed for another long postseason run.

While other players greeted Burress warmly Friday night after his visit, Manning didn't talk to him because he said he was in meetings with coaches.

Manning said he talked to Burress a few weeks ago to see how he was doing after his release and to wish him well.

When pressed, Manning said Burress is a big target (6-foot-5) who can go up and get the ball and make plays.

"That is always a nice thing to have in your back pocket," Manning said.

If Burress were to sign elsewhere, Manning believes the Giants have enough talent to compensate with Hakeem Nicks, Mario Manningham, Steve Smith, Domenik Hixon and other young wideouts such as Victor Cruz and Ramses Barden, among others. There's also a running game that features Brandon Jacobs, D.J. Ware and possibly Ahmad Bradshaw, if he were to re-sign with New York. Re-signing Boss to play tight end also would help.

"We have a lot of skills in the offensive positions and a lot of receivers who can make big plays," Manning said. "We have a number of guys that can step up and prove that they can be depended on, week in and week out."

The Giants will have to produce with the defending NFC East champion Philadelphia Eagles adding Nnamdi Asomugha, one of the NFL's best cover cornerbacks.

Manning said that when the Giants won the Super Bowl after the 2007, they were able to combine talent and great work ethic.

"People see the final results of the '07 year, when he (Burress) didn't practice all year and say we won a championship," Manning said. "Well, we went 10-6 and barely made the playoffs. It wasn't like everything was a breeze and we went 14-2. It was tough, we struggled, we went through low points. Everything was not always perfect. It is about being dependable, being committed to the team and showing up for practice, working hard and doing everything you can to get yourself and the team prepared to play each game."

Notes: Manning hopes his brother, Peyton, will be ready in the Indianapolis Colts' season opener against the Houston Texans on Sept. 11. Peyton had neck surgery in May, and he won't be on the field when Indianapolis starts its training camp. "I hope he is for his sake, football and the Colts," Eli said of his brother playing in the season opener. "He is on the right track, and hopefully, he is back."

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

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