EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Tom Coughlin wants to hear what Plaxico Burress has to say to him during the much-anticipated meeting Friday night.
The New York Giants head coach wants to gauge the level of the free-agent wideout's commitment to football again. Can the two co-exist? And perhaps most important, Coughlin would like to see an earnest, honest Burress.
"What I have to hear is sincerity," Coughlin said during a news conference at the Giants' practice facility.
"I am looking forward to it," he continued. "I will be open-minded about it. It is an opportunity for us to sit down [for] really what I feel will be Plaxico's opportunity to speak. I'm going to listen and decipher and I am going to ask questions, but basically I want to listen to what he has to say."
Coughlin was open and honest about meeting with Burress, who shot himself in the thigh in November 2008 and blew up the Giants' chances of repeating as Super Bowl champions. The Giants were 10-1 at the time of Burress' accident in a Manhattan nightclub, and they finished 12-4 before losing to the Eagles in the playoffs. Burress, who turns 34 on Aug. 12, then served nearly two years in prison on a gun charge.
From about 6:30 p.m. ET until around 8 p.m., Burress sat down with Coughlin and talked with general manager Jerry Reese and co-owner John Mara. This is considered the first and biggest step in what could be what was initially thought to be an unlikely reunion. Burress may meet with the Pittsburgh Steelers and head coach Mike Tomlin after visiting with the Giants, according to ESPN NFL senior writer Chris Mortensen.
Burress and Coughlin will have a heart-to-heart that has been more than two years in the making. Coughlin has not seen Burress since his last day with the team in 2008.
Coughlin said that ownership wants the coach and receiver to have this talk, although Coughlin said no one asked him specifically to meet Burress.
Shortly after being released from prison in June, Burress told ESPN's Stephen A. Smith that his relationship with Coughlin was poor. Burress admitted that he rebelled at times against Coughlin because he didn't like the head coach's approach. The coach reportedly fined Burress numerous times for violating team rules and being late to meetings.
Coughlin said he did not take Burress' comments personally. He was asked if Burress can change from the person he knew a few years ago and whether he can demonstrate that in a meeting.
"Let me say this to you: What is there to change?" Coughlin asked. "When you sign on to go to work for somebody, the basic thing is you got to go to work, you got to be there, you got to get on time. What is there to change? When you come down to it, that is the basic ingredient or rule. Understand your responsibility. People depend on you.
"I'm hoping what commitment means is commitment."
Reese says the Giants are serious about their interest in Burress.
"We don't bring guys in just for the fun of it," Reese said. "We won't bring a guy in if we aren't serious about the possibility of signing him to our football club."
The biggest step is to see what comes from the Burress and Coughlin summit. As Mara said Thursday, both sides have to get over their past in order to move forward.
Coughlin needs to get over how Burress sunk the Giants' title hopes and his disregard at times for his rules. And Burress will have to get past how Coughlin operates and determine whether the two can co-exist.
"It is not personal for me," Coughlin said. "I have no ego in terms of what I have to accomplish in regards to him or anybody else. I am willing to listen."
"I felt very very badly for his wife and his son and the fact that he had a young daughter born when he was not home," Coughlin said of Burress' time in prison. "My only concern, not thinking that there would be this opportunity when he was released, that he be with his family and create some sort of normalcy for his wife and kids."
Ohm Youngmisuk covers the Giants for ESPNNewYork.com.