Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley
Now that former Giants wide receiver Plaxico Burress has pleaded guilty to a weapons charge and agreed to a two-year prison term, you must wonder if his career in the NFL is over. It's important to remember that Michael Vick reported to prison two years ago at age 27, which should've been the prime of his career.
Vick hasn't taken a hit in two seasons and Eagles coach Andy Reid said he was only a couple of pounds overweight when he reported for duty last Friday. I think it's safe to assume that Vick's young enough that his legs didn't deteriorate all that much from two years away from the game.
Burress is a completely different story. He turned 32 earlier this month and even if he gets out in 20 months for good behavior, he'll be 34 by the time the 2011 season begins. It's not like he's going to lose any of his height (6-foot-5) in prison, and that's an attribute that helped make him an elite receiver in this league. Even at age 34, Burress could be a matchup problem for smaller cornerbacks.
Although Burress has never had elite quickness or explosion, those are things that naturally fade as players get older. Will Burress lose his acceleration and burst while sitting in prison? I think we can all agree the answer is yes.
"I don't think there's a lot of margin for error in terms of his speed," said Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. "You have to think some of that's going away while he's in prison."
Marvin Harrison's one of the all-time great receivers to play in this league. By all accounts, he's relatively healthy right now at age 36. But the man can't find a job -- even with his former coach Tony Dungy actively campaigning for him. It's naive to think that Burress could sit in a prison for 20 months and then return to Pro Bowl status. It's not like he's a physical specimen such as Terrell Owens, a man who doesn't seem to age.
At best, I think Burress would come back as a second or third receiver who could help a team in the red zone. I certainly don't think he'll be a player that defensive coordinators will have to devise game plans around anymore. The late Jim Johnson talked about how much easier it was to prepare for the Giants when Burress wasn't on the field. He's not going to have that same impact at age 34.
There's also the question of whether Burress would face a suspension from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. I think 20 months behind bars would be more than enough punishment. He made a serious mistake last November, but at least in my mind, Vick's crime was far more heinous. In retrospect, Burress would've been better off agreeing to this prison sentence seven months ago. That means he could've been out of prison by October 2010 and possibly resumed his career at age 33. But try as he might, he can't turn the clock back now.
Judging by what we've seen with Vick, Burress would be wise to go ahead and put Dungy on retainer. But at this point, I think it's fair to say his NFL future looks pretty bleak.