Plaxico Burress takes new direction

NEW YORK -- A remorseful Plaxico Burress said he no longer owns a firearm and that he wants to help mentor and speak to youth about the dangers of owning a gun.

In his first in-depth public comments, Burress spoke about how everything changed in his life that one night he carried an unlicensed gun into a Manhattan nightclub and accidentally shot himself in the thigh. He said the incident has motivated him to help others avoid the same mistake. He is teaming with the National Urban League and the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence to speak to and mentor youth about the dangers of gun violence.

And, like Michael Vick, Burress has former Colts coach Tony Dungy standing by his side as an adviser and mentor.

"It was a tragic accident," Burress said at the National Urban League's headquarters in Manhattan. "I have paid a tremendous price for a bad decision. I say to myself all those 20 months and all those days [in prison], how can I take the next step and how can people learn from what happened to me?"

"If I can just help a child to think about the decision of carrying a firearm or not to carry one out of the home, he or she may save lives in itself," Burress continued. "You can make a mistake and you can be a better person from it and along the way bring people with you."

Wearing a suit and tie and talking without any script or notes, Burress seemed genuine, sincere and humbled and said he spoke from the heart.

Like he did with Vick after the quarterback's prison sentence for financing a dogfighting ring, Dungy stood by Burress' side and is mentoring the former football star. The Super Bowl-winning coach visited Burress in prison in the spring and had a profound impact on the wide receiver. Dungy and Vick will help guide Burress in his comeback in life and football.

"It was one of the most single-handedly most important visits that I did have," Burress said. "Talking about life and taking next steps in life. Just for him to reach out to me in a time and situation where a lot of people shied away, it just meant a lot to me."

Dungy said he sees so many similarities between Burress and Vick.

"You have to come to the conclusion that you can't do things the same way you did," Dungy said. "You got to change. For Mike, I think he realized that in prison, when he went to a birthday party and had a near miss, he realized everything he worked for with a decision can come to an end. I know he has communicated that to Plax, when you come out, you have to think about everything you do."

Burress said he spent many hours thinking about the one decision that turned his life upside down.

"I dealt with so many different emotions over that time that I can't really put a finger on one particular one," Burress said. "I said to myself over and over again all those many days and nights, how could something like this happen to me. Why did it happen to me? I got to a point saying, you know what, I want to be positive and I am going to learn from it and try to make every day my masterpiece. I can't go back in time and get those two years back. The only thing I can do now is learn what happened to me and go from it and take it one day at a time."

Dungy recalled that at the first meeting of every training camp he would ask how many players owned weapons. About 90 percent would raise their hands, he said.

"That's the society we live in," Dungy said. "They feel they have to get a gun to protect themselves or because everyone else is doing it. That doesn't need to be the situation."

Burress had some advice for players about guns.

"If you're going to carry a weapon, make sure you've done everything properly, that you're obeying all the laws or the rules of that state, and you know fully how to operate the weapon if you choose to carry one," he said.

Burress, who will turn 34 in August, will be a free agent once the lockout ends and free agency begins. He is expected to have his share of suitors despite having not played since 2008.

"Mike told me, 'Coach, I can be better than what I was because I didn't really apply myself and I didn't work at it, and if I can get an opportunity I can be better,'" Dungy said of what Vick told him prior to joining the Eagles. "I didn't believe that. Plax told me, 'I can be better.' He said, 'I was banged up my last year and I was not healthy so I haven't been able to run and work the way that I would, but I'm healed up so I can be better.'"

"After what happened with Mike, I can't doubt him," added Dungy. "Something as a coach tells me I don't believe that, but I have to let it play out and see."

Ohm Youngmisuk covers the Giants for ESPNNewYork.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.