Updated, 6:42 p.m. ET
“I’m just having fun, man,” said Plaxico Burress, savoring the highlights of his return to the game with the Jets after his time away. “I love the competition. I missed it.”
The competition manifests itself in different ways. Today was a big day for talking about the 6’5″ wideout’s blocking, his heretofore undervalued skills that manifested themselves with a couple of knockdowns of Raiders defenders
“I think I’ve got three so far. It’s hard to get those little jitterbugs,” Burress said of the DBs he sometimes has to turn away from his backs, such as LaDainian Tomlinson on his 74-yard catch-and-run against the Raiders. “You get your shot, you’ve got to take it. Some of the guys are like, ‘Hey, man, you didn’t have to hit my guy like that.’ I’m like, ‘He’ll do the same thing to me if I catch the ball and I’m not looking.’ “
Rex Ryan was asked if he knew Plax could block like that before the Jets brought him into the green fold in August.
“I knew he had it in him,” the head coach reminisced at today’s news conference about his then team, the Ravens, and their 2008 meeting with Burress’ then team, the Giants. “One of my favorite players of all time was Samari Rolle — a great teammate, a great player, a great person. The Giants were running one of those 200-yard games. Ahmad Bradshaw gets outside, Plax is out there, and boom! All of a sudden, Samari is laying by my feet.
“I see this Giant guy and I say, ‘You don’t need to do that to Samari.’ And He said, ‘I’m just playing.’ That was Plax.”
Burress has a slightly different memory of that day.
“I don’t remember Rex saying anything then,” he recalled. “But me and Samari, we’re great friends. It’s always that friendly competition, that fire. … I threw him over to the sideline, dumped him at the coach’s feet, and let him know, ‘You need another player.’ “
Plax definitely has brought a passion for the game with him, not to mention some of that old playmaking ability he was known for with the Steelers and Giants. He’s got a modest seven receptions but for a nice 18.1-yard average, the best among the Jets’ receivers. And those TD grabs against the Cowboys and the Raiders remind what he can do in the red zone.
Then there is the respect factor from opponents, which apparently hasn’t gone away despite Burress’ time in prison. Two weeks ago he drew double coverage “almost every single snap,” by Ryan’s count, from the Jaguars, who held him catchless but still lost to the Jets by 29 points.
“Does he still have that respect? Absolutely,” said Rex. “He’s a special player and people know it.”
Then on Sunday the Raiders, or at least seventh-year CB Stanford Routt, showed him a different kind of respect. Routt was flagged for three different penalties against Plax — pass interference and illegal use of hands, both coming on the Jets’ second touchdown drive, and holding in the third quarter.
The number of penalties drawn (and the first downs that resulted) were a rare performance for a Jets offensive player. The last receiver to force three flags on the opponents was TE Dustin Keller, then a rookie, for Game 11 at Tennessee in 2008 (two pass interferences and an illegal contact). And the last wideout to cause a trifecta of penalties in one game? That would be Wayne Chrebet, who induced the Broncos into two PIs and an IUH in the Game 9 home win over Denver in 2000.
Burress won’t mind mixing it up against Baltimore’s corners, Lardarius Webb and Cary Williams, on Sunday night. Chances for longballs could be had when the Ravens blitz. And the opportunity for another knockdown or two should also present itself. It will be another hard day’s night of work — and Plax is all for it.
“I feel it after a game,” he said about a big blocking outing. “It tires you out a little bit, going out and giving extra effort in the running game. It’s helping me get into better football shape.”
The Jets’ big injury news is that CB Antonio Cromartie (ribs) went from not practicing Wednesday to full team drills today. “He had a really good day out there. He had three interceptions,” Ryan said. “It was good to see … he’s moving around well.”
There’s still one day to go before Rex declares his players’ game status, but it sounds as if Cro will be good to go at corner. But as the main kickoff returner? “No, he’s not going to return kicks this week, no way,” Ryan said. “Unless we need him.”
“I feel good now,” Cromartie said after practice. “After the game I felt like a fish out of water. I couldn’t breathe. But right now I’m feeling good. I feel 100 percent. I have a little soreness in there but that’s about it.” He’s “very” confident, he added, about playing Sunday.
C Nick Mangold didn’t practice again today, but his prognosis is also trending upward. Rex: “I’m encouraged. He’s getting better.”
And regarding Burress, he was the only addition to the Jets’ list today with hamstring tightness. But Ryan and Burress said it’s nothing that will keep him out of the upcoming game. “There was just a little tightness. It just didn’t feel right,” Plax said. “But I’ll be fine. I’ll practice tomorrow. Its just being safe, recognizing that your body’s telling you, ‘Don’t go out and push it 100 percent today.’ “
The Ravens upgraded G Ben Grubbs (toe), who was limited at today’s practice, and C Matt Birk (knee) and DE Cory Redding (toe), who were full-go. Five players remain not practicing, including starting WR Lee Evans.
Tags: Ahmad Bradshaw, Antonio Cromartie, Baltimore Ravens, New York Giants, Nick Mangold, Plaxico Burress, Rex Ryan
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