EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. —A yearlong ankle injury could not keep Plaxico Burress out of the New York Giants’ lineup last season. The lack of a telephone call this week apparently is going to cost him a game and more than $235,000.
Less than a month after handing the man who caught the winning pass in the Super Bowl a new $35 million contract, the Giants on Wednesday suspended Burress for a game for missing a practice and not calling to explain his absence.
Burress’ agent insisted the nine-year veteran had an undisclosed family emergency on Monday and will appeal the ban to the NFL Players Association.
“We have had success here because of the team concept,” Giants coach Tom Coughlin said in discussing the suspension, which was handed down during a bye week for the Giants (3-0). “And the team concept means basically that everyone is accountable and responsible and that we don’t let the other guys down. And that is what we are trying to do.”
As part of the suspension, Burress will not be allowed to practice until after the Oct. 5 game against the Seattle Seahawks. That means he will miss two weekly paychecks, totaling $235,294.12 of his $2 million annual base salary.
The Giants refused to say why Burress was suspended, but agent Drew Rosenhaus claimed Burress had a family emergency that has now been resolved.
Rosenhaus said Burress spoke with Giants director of player development Charles Way on Monday evening, but he added there was “miscommunication” between the player and the team.
When asked specifically why Burress did not telephone the team or answer repeated telephone calls Monday to discuss the absence, Rosenhaus avoided answering the question.
“Again we’re acknowledging that there should be some repercussion, but not to the extent where he is denied his right to perform his livelihood to play,” Rosenhaus said in a conference call. “We think it is very serious and not very common, but there are things that do take place in the NFL that you could say are worse and have not led to suspension.”
Rosenhaus said the NFLPA has not advised him when an arbitrator would hear the appeal, but he hopes Burress is back in the lineup for the Seattle game.
“I hope we can get this worked out and get back out on the practice field and back to playing football for the Giants. That’s where he belongs,” Rosenhaus said.
Coughlin insisted the suspension will not be a distraction: “This is a team that is focused and displayed mental toughness and they will do the same thing with regard to this.”
Coughlin and general manager Jerry Reese informed Burress of the suspension Wednesday morning before the team held practice.
“I think he was very surprised and very, very disappointed,” Rosenhaus said of Burress’ reaction to the suspension. “I spoke with him immediately after his meeting. … He certainly did not anticipate his conduct would lead to him being suspended.”
Burress was not immediately available for comment. He was off to a great start this season with a team-high 18 catches for 259 yards and a touchdown.
“It is something we just have to deal with and move on,” said quarterback Eli Manning, who found out late Monday that Burress was not at Giants Stadium. “That is what our focus is, get ready for Seattle and try to get a win there.”
Second-year pro Steve Smith didn’t think twice when he noticed Burress was not at the receivers meeting on Monday.
“Plax is Plax, he does what he wants,” Smith said. “I don’t see him a lot, so I thought it was a normal day. I didn’t know if he was going to come or not. I didn’t know he was getting in trouble for that, so we never know when it comes to Plax.”
Burress has had other problems with the Giants since signing as a free agent in 2005. He was benched for the opening quarter against San Diego early in 2005 for being late for a meeting. He said his wife was pregnant and he went with her for a test.
Burress was upset this summer after the Giants refused to negotiate his contract after the Super Bowl. He refused to practice during a mandatory minicamp in June and was fined $42,000. The Giants signed Burress to a two-year contract extension just before the opener that will bump his salary into the $7 million range over the next five years. The deal included $11 million in guaranteed money that will be paid this season.
Burress then caught 10 catches for 133 yards in a 16-7 win over Washington.
Burress caught the winning 13-yard touchdown pass in the final minute of the Giants’ 17-14 win over the Patriots in the Super Bowl. And despite playing on a sprained right ankle all last season, Burress had a team-high 70 receptions for 1,025 yards and a career-high 12 touchdowns. He added 18 catches for 221 yards in the postseason.
Burress caught 209 passes for 3,227 yards and 29 touchdowns in his first three seasons with the Giants, with all the touchdowns being thrown by Manning.
Wide receiver is one of the Giants’ deepest positions. In addition to Burress, there’s Amani Toomer, Steve Smith, Sinorice Moss, Domenik Hixon and rookie Mario Manningham.