Brandt: Six now-or-never teams
In the NFL, a window of opportunity can shut in the blink of an eye. Gil Brandt says six contenders are on borrowed time. More ...
Burress played with Kordell Stewart, Tommy Maddox, Roethlisberger and Eli Manning, producing in the playoffs with all of them. Burress was known behind the scenes as a smart player and excellent teammate. (Burress memorably addressed the Steelers after the disappointing end of the 2004 season.) Still, Burress knew how to drive his coaches and bosses a little crazy early in his career. The Steelers made the choice to sign Hines Ward to a long-term contract in 2005 while letting Burress leave in free agency.
The Steelers made the right choice, but Burress ended up as one of the better free-agent signings of the decade with the New York Giants. His six-year, $25 million contract proved to be a bargain for the Giants, even if it ended badly. Burress averaged 1,075 yards and 10 touchdowns in his first three seasons with the Giants. His 11-reception, 151-yard decimation of Green Bay Packers cornerback Al Harris in the 2007 NFC Championship Game was an epic, somewhat forgotten big-game performance.
Burress largely will be remembered for accidentally shooting himself at a New York nightclub in 2008. The controversy inspired a lot of late night jokes and a lengthy discussion on gun rights in New York. (Mayor Michael Bloomberg was not a man to be trifled with on this topic.) The loss of Burress at midseason helped sink an otherwise promising Giants campaign.
Roethlisberger's use of the word "misunderstood" was typical. It was a word I often heard to describe Burress by those who personally knew him well. The same word is true for his career.