By now, I'm sure you've heard about this. Giants star wide receiver Plaxico Burress went out to a club in midtown Manhattan last week, carrying an unlicensed, loaded handgun in the waist band of his sweatpants.
This really does sound like the set-up to a bad joke, right?
Except it's not. So Burress gets to the The Latin Quarter (located on Lexington Ave and 48th street in NYC), accompanied by LB Antonio Pierce and RB Ahmad Bradshaw, and they let him in, knowing full well who he is. Their only request? Please unload the illegal gun before bringing it inside. Easy enough, right?
Except not so much. Burress shot himself in the leg, so now he's gone, suspended for the rest of the year, the playoffs, and possibly forever.
I'm not going to get into the social implications of athletes feeling threatened enough (or wanting to feel powerful enough) to bring loaded guns out with them at night, and we're not here to get into whether or not Antonio Pierce will keep playing and be effective down the stretch (he will, no worries), amidst Mayor Bloomberg's cry for blood in the ongoing investigation. That'll get sorted out eventually, but the Giants will keep right on chugging through one of the hardest schedules in football and continue dominating their opponents.
Some think Plax was too valuable, that losing him will be too much for the Giants to overcome, that the distraction is too much for the team to bear. The reality is the team has already moved past Burress. You could make the case (and Mike Lupica of the NY Daily News has, repeatedly) that he played one of the best games a receiver has ever played in last year's NFC Championship game at Green Bay - 11 catches for 154 yards - in one of the coldest games ever in NFL history, against a very good bump-and-run corner, Al Harris. Since catching the game-winning TD in the Super Bowl two weeks later, things have just not been the same. His production hasn't been there all season. Week one, against the 'Skins, Plax was Plax, catching ten balls for 133 yards. The next week against the Rams in St. Louis, he caught five balls, and hasn't caught that many in a game since.
The Giants offense clicks with multiple parts. They're better off without a T.O.-mold who needs and craves attention multiple times a game, and this season, during their impressive march to a league-best 11-1 record, they've gone to a number of different guys. Don't think Sinorice Moss and Domenik Hixon are chomping at the bit to finally prove they belong as a top-four option on an NFL team?
They'll miss Plax, all right. They'll miss him the same as they miss Tiki Barber, the Giants all-time leader rusher (with 10,449 yards), who retired after the 2006 season. All the Giants did in the first year without Tiki was win a Super Bowl over the greatest offensive team of all time. They won it without another superstar, Jeremy Shockey, a four-time Pro Bowl tight end who broke his leg and missed the playoffs. He was traded to the New Orleans Saints for two draft picks, a second and a fifth-round choice, in the off-season. His replacement, Kevin Boss, filled in admirably once Shockey went out for the year, and leads the team in TD catches and awesome hurdles so far this season.
Then, remember when DE Michael Strahan retired, and everyone thought their pass rush was dead? And then, in training camp, Osi Unemyiora went down on a fluke play and was lost for the year? They were supposed to really be screwed then, right?
They're 11-1 this season, not by accident, and without major contributions from any of the guys listed above. If they win on Sunday at home against the completely inept Eagles, they'll lock up all kinds of post-season goodies. And they will win, because Coach Tom Coughlin has the entire roster, down to the practice squad guys, believing that the team is bigger than themselves. They've moved ahead without stars before. I don't anticipate them changing the plan now.