Former New York Giants star Plaxico Burress was released from prison on Monday after spending nearly two years behind bars on a gun charge and headed to Florida to be with his family as he contemplates his chances of playing again in the NFL.
As he left Oneida Correctional Facility in central New York Monday morning, he hugged agent Drew Rosenhaus and shook hands. He was wearing a black sweatshirt, shorts, sneakers and a Philadelphia Phillies hat.
"I just want to thank God for bringing me through one of the most trying times in my life," he said to reporters outside the prison. "It's a beautiful day. It's a beautiful day to be reunited with my family. I want to go home and spend some quality time with them."
"I'd like to thank everybody for their prayers and words of encouragement," he said. "I'd like to thank all my fans all around the world for the thousands of letters, for their unwavering support. As far as football is concerned, if and when everything gets settled, when they get back on the field, I'll be ready."
He got into a black Range Rover and headed for the Rome, NY airport where he was expected to fly home immediately.
His release came nearly two years after he arrived at the medium-security prison. Burress, who turns 34 in August, planned to travel to his Florida home to spend time with his wife, son and a daughter born while he was in jail. He'll continue working out while awaiting a resolution of the NFL labor dispute, said his attorney, Peter M. Frankel.
Burress pleaded guilty in August 2009 to attempted criminal possession of a weapon and was sentenced to two years in prison. He was released about three months early for good behavior.
Because he was a high-profile inmate, Burress was placed in a protective custody unit at the prison, which has 930 inmates, 20 in protective custody. While in prison, he completed an aggression management program and worked as a lawn and grounds laborer, according the state's Department of Correctional Services.
Burress violated prison rules and regulations three times: He lied to a guard about having permission to use the phone; gave another inmate a pair of black and silver sneakers that were deemed contraband; and had too many cassette tapes and an unauthorized extra pillow in his "filthy" cell.
Burress will be on parole for two years. He has to get and keep a job, undergo substance abuse testing, obey any curfew established by his Florida parole officer, support his family and undergo any anger counseling or other conditions required by his parole officer.
The lanky 6-foot-5 receiver had the world at his feet after catching a 13-yard pass from Eli Manning with 35 seconds to play to give the Giants a stunning 17-14 win over the undefeated New England Patriots in the 2008 Super Bowl.
His world fell apart nine months later when he walked into a Manhattan nightclub with a handgun tucked in the waistband of his pants. The weapon slipped down and discharged as Burress tried to grab it, injuring him in the thigh.
The wound was not serious. The backlash was.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg called for Burress to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and was irate that officials at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center treated Burress and failed to report the shooting, as required by law. A doctor who treated Burress was later suspended.
The gun was not licensed in New York or in New Jersey, where Burress lived. His license to carry a concealed weapon in Florida had expired in May 2008.
Rosenhaus said he has spoken to several teams about the wide receiver and expects him to play in the NFL again. He said Burress matured in prison and there are things he would do differently.
"He's learned an awful lot," Rosenhaus said. "He knows that he obviously made a mistake. To miss two NFL seasons in the prime of your career. To not be with your family, most importantly. To lose out on millions and millions of dollars. These are things that have forced him to certainly evaluate his life."
He said the teams he's talked to have not expressed any concerns about Burress. He did not say which teams or how many he spoke to.
"He's going to be a top free-agent," Rosenhaus said. "There are going to be multiple teams interested in signing him. I expect him to get a good contract. I expect him to absolutely be playing."
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)