Plaxico Burress preparing to face former team

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Plaxico Burress preparing to face former team

From Comcast SportsNet Thursday, August 25, 2011
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) -- Plaxico Burress walked into the New York Giants' training facility a few weeks ago and saw a familiar face. There he was, in a larger-than-life picture hanging on a wall, making the catch that beat the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl in 2008. It was a great moment for Burress, whose Giants career was over and his NFL future in doubt less than a year later. "There's no anger toward anybody over there," said the Jets wide receiver, now on the other side of the New York-New Jersey-area rivalry. "Everything that happened to me, I brought it upon myself." The fines by the team. The disagreements with coach Tom Coughlin. His release in April 2009. The 20-month prison sentence he served for accidentally shooting himself in a Manhattan nightclub. Some fans and media believed the Giants had a good chance of going back to the Super Bowl before that incident. They finished 12-4, but lost to Philadelphia in the divisional round of the playoffs. "We had a really good team, there's no doubt about it," he said. "We definitely had some special players. We had a good thing going. It's unfortunate that everything happened the way that it did. "I've moved on." After he was released and looking to resume his playing career, he visited Coughlin, Giants co-owners John Mara and Steve Tisch and general manager Jerry Reese. It wasn't so much to become a member of the Giants again, but to put his mind and conscience at peace. "I went back more to have some closure to the situation," Burress said Wednesday. "It was good to see (them) and be able to have an opportunity to really sit down face-to-face with them for the first time, and just tell them how much I appreciated them bringing me in and allowing my game to flourish and put me in a situation where I could have some success. "Everything went well. It was a great meeting. Business is business, and now I'm over here." No longer in blue, Burress is catching passes in green these days -- still wearing that familiar No. 17 -- and will play his former team Saturday night. "There's not any extra added incentive or juice or whatever you want to call it," he said. "It's a preseason game. I have a lot of work to do personally, as far as me getting better and contributing to this football team." That doesn't mean Burress isn't excited to see some of his friends again, players who visited him while he was in prison and shared some of his greatest moments on the field. "It's going to be fun, man," Burress said. "I'm still in contact with a lot of those guys. We definitely did something special." Giants quarterback Eli Manning didn't visit Burress in jail, but called him a few weeks after he was released. "He was a great teammate for the Giants," Manning said. "He had a great run. Things happened and, honestly, he is with the Jets now and playing well and I am happy for him and look forward to seeing him. I haven't seen him in a long time." The Giants saw a familiar sight in Burress' Jets debut Sunday night when he made a terrific over-the-shoulder touchdown catch in New York's preseason win over Cincinnati. "I really do think Plaxico, definitely with his first outing, is making the best of his situation and I'm happy for him," Giants defensive end Justin Tuck said. "He deserves every attribute and every good thing that is coming his way now." Burress also met with the Steelers during free agency, and could have gone back to the team his started his career with. Instead, he chose to join Rex Ryan's Jets without even making a visit. "Personally, I just think I needed a fresh start," he said. "If I wanted to go somewhere and get more money, I could've went to a couple more places and signed a two- or three-year deal, different things like that. I just wanted to put myself in a situation to go somewhere fresh and have an opportunity to play for a great organization and for a great head coach in Rex and a great team. "I feel that I'm in the right place." Burress mentioned Ryan's quest for a Super Bowl and how that appealed to him, calling the coach's approach "contagious." "I feel I'm at home," he said. "I made the right decision and I'm happy I'm just playing football." After being slowed by a sprained ankle to start training camp with his new team, Burress completed his NFL comeback with his three-catch performance against the Bengals. He had a sore lower back Wednesday, but fully practiced and should be out there with the Jets' starting offense into the third quarter. Despite Burress downplaying the significance of the game, his former teammates know better. "Going up against him, all of us are competitors," Tuck said, "and I'm sure he is going to try to make a splash and we're going to try to make sure he doesn't." Burress' new teammates also know this game isn't just any other -- even if it's only preseason. "Well, he's excited," quarterback Mark Sanchez said. "But, he's a pro and he's done this for so long that he won't have any distractions." Ryan wondered how the crowd at MetLife Stadium -- it's a Giants home game -- will respond when Burress takes the field or makes a play. "I'm really not sure, and I'm really not too concerned about it," Burress said. "I'm going to go out and have fun. I'm doing this with a smile on my face with a new attitude." Notes: A day after Tuck told reporters the teams' new playing home will always be known as Giants Stadium, Jets WR Santonio Holmes disagreed. "It's the Meadowlands," he said. "It's the home of the New York Jets. That's all I'll say about that." ... Sanchez wore an FDNY T-shirt to promote a charity event that will benefit the NY Police & Fire Widows & Children's Benefit Fund -- www.answerthecall.org -- for families affected by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The shirts, created by Muze Clothing, can be purchased through Sanchez's Facebook page. Sanchez's father, Nick, is a firefighter in California.

CSN's Buckets List: Meet the new boss, same as the old boss

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CSN's Buckets List: Meet the new boss, same as the old boss

Each Monday through the Final Four, our own Robbie Buckets -- known in some circles as Rob Snyder, associate producer at CSN -- will take a look at the world of college basketball: Games to watch each week, players who might be on the Celtics' radar come draft time, what's going on locally . . . and, of course, power rankings (which will eventually morph into bracketology). Enjoy!

After a Saturday for the ages came and went this past weekend, it's clear offensive efficiency is ruling the college basketball world. Villanova, UCLA, Creighton, Indiana, UNC, Kentucky, and a slew of other teams are shooting the lights out early in the season. In a rare switch, offensive efficiency is proving more valuable than defensive efficiency early on this year. We aren't used to seeing shooting quite like this, but it makes for great basketball watching. We also have some surprise teams making big moves in the rankings, and I'm sure the shake-ups will keep coming week-by-week with no slowing down.

POWER RANKINGS

1. Villanova (8-0) - The defending champs spent a nice week destroying fellow Big 5 teams. On top of that, the Wildcats watched Kentucky fall (more on that later), which moves them up to the top spot. I can make a great case for the two teams behind them to be ahead, but I'll reward a defending champion going undefeated every day of the week.

2. Baylor (8-0) - SURPRISE! The Bears just keep on winning against really good competition. Scott Drew's club has now beaten four top 25 teams in Oregon, Michigan State, Louisville and, most recently, Xavier. (I understand it's likely two of those teams won't be ranked this week, but they're still really good.)  This is the most impressive early season resume in a long time.

3. UCLA (9-0) - It's one thing to put up massive offensive numbers against lowly competition. It's a completely different thing when you go into Rupp Arena and put up 97 points against Kentucky. Lonzo Ball had a rough go in the first half but he was helped by fellow freshman T.J. Leaf, who is absolutely balling.

4. Kentucky (7-1) - I'm keeping the Wildcats right here because I still saw a lot I liked in the loss to UCLA. Mainly, I think De'Aaron Fox and Malik Monk make up the best backcourt in the country. This team still has so much room to grow.

5. Kansas (7-1) - Shockingly, Kansas has decided to go with a small, four-guard lineup as of late.  The Jayhawks have benched Landen Lucas and it's working having Lagerald Vick join Graham, Mason and Jackson in the backcourt. I applaud Bill Self for the outside-the-box thinking.

6. Duke (8-1) - Great to finally see the Blue Devils get some of their freshman back, albeit against Maine. The Dukies will probably shoot further up the power rankings next week as they get their fresh legs under them. As of now, I'm still slightly underwhelmed by the overall product (which is being harsh), but I love what I'm seeing from Luke Kennard who -- shhhhhhh -- is a better overall player than Grayson Allen.

7. Gonzaga (8-0) - They haven't missed a beat, putting away frisky Arizona on Saturday.  The Dogs are now on cruise control and have a real shot at being the last undefeated team standing this season.

8. Creighton (8-0) - Speaking of undefeated, the Bluejays of Omaha are maybe the hottest offensive team in the country, led by three of the best guards in all of college basketball.  (They may even be better than Kentucky's backcourt.)  Creighton will be a force in the Big East this year.

9. Indiana (7-1) - The hardest thing about doing rankings is Jekyll-and-Hyde teams like the Hoosiers. What can you say about a team that beat Kansas, lost to Fort Wayne, and then rebounded with a win over North Carolina? You rank them 9. That's what you do.

10. North Carolina (7-1) - Speaking of North Carolina, last week I thought the Tar Heels were the hottest team in college hoops and now they're licking their wounds after being beaten pretty good by Indiana. They're still extremely well-rounded, and should still be in the Top 5 conversation later in the year.

11. Virginia (7-1) - For the first time in years, the Cavaliers lost a home non-conference game. The slugfest with West Virginia went as expected as the two unique defenses went at each other.  Hard to drop UVA too far, as they still boast the nation's second-best defense.

12. Butler (8-0) - Hard to believe we're into December and still have three undefeated Big East teams and none of them are Xavier. Butler has looked really balanced this year in wins over Arizona and Utah. I would still like to see more scoring from the guards.

13. Louisville (7-1) - The Cardinals successfully rebounded from a not-bad-at-all loss to Baylor and took down Purdue in a game they tried very hard to lose. Louisville's biggest issue is offensive consistency, which has grinded to a halt at times this season. Defensively, however, there are no issues.

14. Xavier (7-1) - Hey, look, it's another team that lost to Baylor.  The loss isn't necessarily bad, but the way X is playing hasn't been totally solid.  They're getting almost all of their offense from three players, and their depth hasn't been great. They will still be a really good team, but are starting to look less like a dark horse Final Four team.

15. West Virginia (6-1) - What a win for WVU in Charlottesville. Huggy Bear's press continues to give opponents problems and keeps the Mountaineers in games even when they aren't hitting their shots.  They were 25th in the AP poll last week, but are now No. 9 in kenpom.  Expect a move once the pollsters read this column.

LOCAL FLAVOR 

Providence - What a week for the Friars.  They took out previously ranked in-state rivals Rhode Island and are now 6-2 with a quality win.  Rodney Bullock is carrying the scoring load, and I have to say I'm very surprised by the development of Kyron Cartwright. His ball-handling and passing have been phenomenal. Ed Cooley is doing wonders with this group..

Rhode Island - Speaking of the Rams, they'll be just fine. A true road loss (albeit still in-state) is nothing to worry about. Now they'll hope Providence becomes a Top 50, or at the very least Top 100, RPI team, and the loss won't even look bad. What Rhody does need to worry about is finding a way to beat good teams. They now have three losses -- to Duke, Valpo (road), and Providence (road). They do have a quality win over a very good Cincinnati team, so they'll just need to take care of conference play and find a way to get a little more from their bench.

WHAT TO WATCH THIS WEEK

  • Tuesday December 6: Florida vs Duke (at Madison Square Garden)
  • Saturday December 10: Villanova vs Notre Dame (Prudential Center); Michigan at UCLA

POTENTIAL FUTURE CELTICS TO WATCH

Jayson Tatum - Duke finally has a couple of its freshman back, and this is the guy to watch. I was pumped about him prior to the season because he's a 6-foot-7 wing player who does everything effortlessly. Tatum had 10 points and 8 rebounds in his opener despite being very rusty. It's only up from here.

De'Aaron Fox - Kentucky's point guard is the real deal and is so fun to watch.  He's a 6-6 bean stalk, so he doesn't necessarily look like a point guard . . . until you see him pass.  Fox can also get to the rim and play suffocating 'D'.  He's still working on his jump shot, but it's coming along.  NBA teams will drool over this guy.

Follow me on Twitter @RobbieBuckets for college hoops musings and off-the-cuff sports takes.

Monday, Dec. 5: Craig Cunningham's recovery

Monday, Dec. 5: Craig Cunningham's recovery

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while fully getting in the holiday spirit by getting the family Christmas tree this week.

*Very good and very sobering story about Craig Cunningham’s slow recovery, and his large support system with the AHL Roadrunners team he is captaining this season. It sounds like it might be a bit of a long road for him, so he and his family will need that support from those around him.

*Tyler Seguin has his shot back, and that’s great news for the Dallas Stars power play. So is that like Stella getting her groove back?

*A KHL player went into a sliding dab formation in order to celebrate a goal on the ice, and we salute him for that.

*The Maple Leafs are trying to fortify their backup goaltending situation after waiving Jhonas Enroth this week.

*Interesting Bob McKenzie piece about a young man that’s hoping to challenge conventional thinking in the hockey coaching ranks.

*TSN’s Scott Cullen takes a look at Winnipeg rookie Patrik Laine’s shooting skills as part of his “Statistically Speaking” column.

*For something completely different: the hits just keep on coming for Netflix as they’re going to double their TV series output over the next year.