(Fox Sports) – In the world of sports there is room for redemption after huge lapses in judgment.
However it is a tough task for most critics not to be hard on Plaxico Burress for his gun toting mishap.
Burress is staring straight at a lengthy prison term after pleading guilty to unlawful possession and discharge of a firearm. The former New York Giants wide receiver faces some two years in jail and is set to start serving his sentence in a month’s time.
There is room for a sense of compassion (albeit a slight one) after hearing Plaxico Burress removal from public life late last week for weapons charges.
Though Burress made his decision and sealed his fate carrying a gun his family is the real innocent victim. They will now be without a husband, father and breadwinner for at least 20 months until Burress becomes eligible for parole.
Another helpless casualty is the average NFL fan. With the season right around the corner talk should be adding a talented wide receiver like Burress to a team. Instead now the only thing on everyone’s tongue is how Burress is the next big football star to face significant jail time.
It’s a shame that one of the greatest moments in New York Giants history – Burress’ game-winning touchdown catch in Super Bowl XLII – will now be forever tainted by his guilty plea to attempted criminal possession of a weapon.
Yet all those feelings of sorrow disappear when it comes to a particular part of the Burress story: Plaxico Burress himself.
The basis behind that sentiment rests in an old TV saying ‘don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time.’ In this case, don’t take an unregistered .40-caliber Glock into a city that has some of the nation’s toughest gun laws without being prepared to face the consequences should something go awry.
Burress apologists and supporters will point to the fact that the only person hurt when the weapon accidentally misfired inside a Manhattan night club last November was Burress.
Some believe Burress was unfairly singled out by prosecutors because of his celebrity status. It also does seem screwy that Burress will serve more time behind bars than fellow NFL misfits Michael Vick and Donte’ Stallworth combined, considering their crimes were much worse.
Vick spent 19 months in the big house for dog-fighting. Stallworth – who pleaded guilty to manslaughter DUI after killing a pedestrian – served 24 days before being released to home confinement.
Any pity one might feel for Burress has to be tempered by how he put himself in this position.
For those needing a refresher, Burress had allowed his gun registration in the state of Florida to expire in May 2008 – six months before the nightclub incident occurred. That was ample time to get his paperwork for New York/New Jersey registration in order.
After shooting himself in the leg, Burress lied to hospital officials by admitting himself under a false name (Harris Smith). The Glock was nowhere to be found.
Giants linebacker Antonio Pierce was driving it back to Burress’ New Jersey home.
Burress presented his side of the story to a grand jury last month hoping to have two felony charges dismissed or reduced. He was indicted anyway.
His prison term, which begins in a few weeks, could have actually been much worse if he was found guilty. Burress would have faced a mandatory minimum prison sentence of three and a half years.
It never came to that as Burress accepted a lesser charge knowing he was out of options.
There is no joy in writing this column. Burress’ football career may very well be over. He won’t be eligible to return until at least 2011. By that time, Burress will be 34 years old. His speed may be gone.
It would be a step to say that Burress had the prison sentence coming stemming from other instances of questionable off-field behaviour or his perpetual refusal to follow Giants head coach Tom Coughlin’s team rules.
The truth of the matter is many enjoyed watching Burress play. He was always polite to many journalists during interviews. The NFL isn’t as good a league when it loses a special talent like this.
Also he made such a great impact with the Giants. It’s arguable that without him the Giants would not have won the Super Bowl. In fact, based on how depleted their receiving core is, the team does not like they will another one until they can find some one to fill Burress’ proverbial shoes.
Burress made a huge mistake that was easily preventable had he done what is expected of every U.S. citizen – even NFL players. All he had to do was follow the law.