Over in Baltimore, receiver Donte' Stallworth preps for a return from surgery on his fractured left foot. Injured in a preseason game over the weekend against the New York Giants, Stallworth is targeting late October for a return to the field.
On Tuesday, in New York, Plaxico Burress was informed that the Department of Correctional Services had denied yet another of his applications for work release. Incarcerated with a two year sentence stemming from an accidental firearm discharge in November 2008, Burress has little hope of returning to an NFL field until the 2011 season at the earliest.
In March 2009, Stallworth killed a pedestrian while driving drunk in Miami Beach. He served 24 days of a 30 day jail sentence. He was suspended one season without pay by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, and was reinstated following the New Orleans Saints' victory in Super Bowl XLIV.
Stallworth killed a man; Burress committed a brazen act of criminal stupidity. The question is, does the latter truly merit 704 days more of incarceration than the former?
Again: Burress was foolish. He slipped a .40-caliber Glock pistol into the waistband of his sweatpants and strolled into a crowded club, bypassing security. Unsurprisingly, it accidentally discharged. To call him incredibly, stupendously, mind-numbingly, painfully foolish would not be an overstatement.
Incredibly foolish, that is, but not inconceivably so. Burress's mishap occurred less than a year after the senseless murder of Washington Redskins' star Sean Taylor underscored the extent to which all star athletes are targets. Just this past July, Bobcats guard Stephen Jackson's Charlotte home was robbed and his wife held at gunpoint.
Yet because Burress happened to commit his act of supreme stupidity within New York State -- worse, within New York City -- he received a two-year jail sentence for what would have been a slap on the wrist incident in the majority of the country. Mayor Michael Bloomberg, so clear-minded and empathetic in public discussions over the Park51 community center project, has been bewilderingly thickheaded and obstinate with his grandstanding this issue.
Burress, it should be remembered, has a wife, an infant son and a newborn daughter. These two years during which he is not drawing an NFL salary are also the first two years of his daughter's life, which he's experiencing only through jailhouse visits. When Burress emerges from prison, he will be 34 years old, ancient in football terms. His career will likely be over, his earning potential decreased hundredsfold for the rest of his life as he attempts to support his young family.
Were Burress to be made a free agent today, there's little doubt he could find work. The Minnesota Vikings recently signed former Packers castoff and Raiders big-money failure Javon Walker and expect him to play a significant role in their offense, compensating for injuries to stars Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin. The St. Louis Rams, who lost starter Donnie Avery to injury reserve earlier this month, will be starting some combination of Danny Amendola, Brandon Gibson and rookie Mardy Gilyard. Combined, this trio totals 77 NFL receptions. Burress, before his career was prematurely abbreviated, racked up 505 catches. The Rams have been rumored to be considering a trade for San Diego holdout and headcase Vincent Jackson; one would have to assume they would take a flyer on Burress.
Instead, he stews in jail, as Donte' Stallworth rehabs and prepares to retake the field for a championship contender. Burress is still a pariah, while Michael Vick, Stallworth and Leonard Little, the Rams defensive star who made two pro-bowls since his 1998 drunk driving-related manslaughter conviction, are allowed their fair shakes at second chances. Little, who was pulled over and failed three road sobriety tests in 2004, has played the bulk of his career on chance number three and is now contemplating retirement, his football dreams more than fulfilled.
Somehow, though, we are supposed to believe that Plaxico Burress's victimless act of negligence deserves a special circle of Hell. Somehow, we are supposed to believe that, regarding Burress, this all makes sense.
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