Plaxico Burress preparing to face former team

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Plaxico Burress preparing to face former team

From Comcast SportsNet Thursday, August 25, 2011
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) -- Plaxico Burress walked into the New York Giants' training facility a few weeks ago and saw a familiar face. There he was, in a larger-than-life picture hanging on a wall, making the catch that beat the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl in 2008. It was a great moment for Burress, whose Giants career was over and his NFL future in doubt less than a year later. "There's no anger toward anybody over there," said the Jets wide receiver, now on the other side of the New York-New Jersey-area rivalry. "Everything that happened to me, I brought it upon myself." The fines by the team. The disagreements with coach Tom Coughlin. His release in April 2009. The 20-month prison sentence he served for accidentally shooting himself in a Manhattan nightclub. Some fans and media believed the Giants had a good chance of going back to the Super Bowl before that incident. They finished 12-4, but lost to Philadelphia in the divisional round of the playoffs. "We had a really good team, there's no doubt about it," he said. "We definitely had some special players. We had a good thing going. It's unfortunate that everything happened the way that it did. "I've moved on." After he was released and looking to resume his playing career, he visited Coughlin, Giants co-owners John Mara and Steve Tisch and general manager Jerry Reese. It wasn't so much to become a member of the Giants again, but to put his mind and conscience at peace. "I went back more to have some closure to the situation," Burress said Wednesday. "It was good to see (them) and be able to have an opportunity to really sit down face-to-face with them for the first time, and just tell them how much I appreciated them bringing me in and allowing my game to flourish and put me in a situation where I could have some success. "Everything went well. It was a great meeting. Business is business, and now I'm over here." No longer in blue, Burress is catching passes in green these days -- still wearing that familiar No. 17 -- and will play his former team Saturday night. "There's not any extra added incentive or juice or whatever you want to call it," he said. "It's a preseason game. I have a lot of work to do personally, as far as me getting better and contributing to this football team." That doesn't mean Burress isn't excited to see some of his friends again, players who visited him while he was in prison and shared some of his greatest moments on the field. "It's going to be fun, man," Burress said. "I'm still in contact with a lot of those guys. We definitely did something special." Giants quarterback Eli Manning didn't visit Burress in jail, but called him a few weeks after he was released. "He was a great teammate for the Giants," Manning said. "He had a great run. Things happened and, honestly, he is with the Jets now and playing well and I am happy for him and look forward to seeing him. I haven't seen him in a long time." The Giants saw a familiar sight in Burress' Jets debut Sunday night when he made a terrific over-the-shoulder touchdown catch in New York's preseason win over Cincinnati. "I really do think Plaxico, definitely with his first outing, is making the best of his situation and I'm happy for him," Giants defensive end Justin Tuck said. "He deserves every attribute and every good thing that is coming his way now." Burress also met with the Steelers during free agency, and could have gone back to the team his started his career with. Instead, he chose to join Rex Ryan's Jets without even making a visit. "Personally, I just think I needed a fresh start," he said. "If I wanted to go somewhere and get more money, I could've went to a couple more places and signed a two- or three-year deal, different things like that. I just wanted to put myself in a situation to go somewhere fresh and have an opportunity to play for a great organization and for a great head coach in Rex and a great team. "I feel that I'm in the right place." Burress mentioned Ryan's quest for a Super Bowl and how that appealed to him, calling the coach's approach "contagious." "I feel I'm at home," he said. "I made the right decision and I'm happy I'm just playing football." After being slowed by a sprained ankle to start training camp with his new team, Burress completed his NFL comeback with his three-catch performance against the Bengals. He had a sore lower back Wednesday, but fully practiced and should be out there with the Jets' starting offense into the third quarter. Despite Burress downplaying the significance of the game, his former teammates know better. "Going up against him, all of us are competitors," Tuck said, "and I'm sure he is going to try to make a splash and we're going to try to make sure he doesn't." Burress' new teammates also know this game isn't just any other -- even if it's only preseason. "Well, he's excited," quarterback Mark Sanchez said. "But, he's a pro and he's done this for so long that he won't have any distractions." Ryan wondered how the crowd at MetLife Stadium -- it's a Giants home game -- will respond when Burress takes the field or makes a play. "I'm really not sure, and I'm really not too concerned about it," Burress said. "I'm going to go out and have fun. I'm doing this with a smile on my face with a new attitude." Notes: A day after Tuck told reporters the teams' new playing home will always be known as Giants Stadium, Jets WR Santonio Holmes disagreed. "It's the Meadowlands," he said. "It's the home of the New York Jets. That's all I'll say about that." ... Sanchez wore an FDNY T-shirt to promote a charity event that will benefit the NY Police & Fire Widows & Children's Benefit Fund -- www.answerthecall.org -- for families affected by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The shirts, created by Muze Clothing, can be purchased through Sanchez's Facebook page. Sanchez's father, Nick, is a firefighter in California.

Giants Notes: Blach shows resiliency; Another option in center?

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USATSI

Giants Notes: Blach shows resiliency; Another option in center?

CHICAGO — John Lackey's night started with a leadoff homer. Ty Blach's night started with a 13-pitch battle. Neither one is a positive for a pitcher, but Blach didn't view it that way. He actually appreciated Ben Zobrist stretching him out.

"It's good to have a battle like that and get you locked in," Blach said. "It gets you focused and you'll be like, I can execute and get guys out. It's good. It's a good battle."

There, in a nutshell, is so much of what Bruce Bochy loves about his young left-hander. The Giants have found Blach's arm and resolve to be remarkably resilient. He wasn't bothered when they moved him to the bullpen and he didn't get too high when they moved him back to the rotation. He is the same after seven shutout innings or three poor ones. Bochy smiled when asked about the Zobrist at-bat, which ended in a strikeout looking. 

"How 'bout that?" the manager said. "He won that at-bat. It seems like the advantage goes to the hitter, seeing all those pitches. He kept his focus and got a called strikeout and here he is pitching in the eighth inning."

After needing 13 pitches for one out, Blach got the next 23 on 81 pitches. Bochy thought Blach tired a bit in the eighth, but the deep effort allowed Bochy to mix and match in the bullpen, and ultimately he found the right mix. Hunter Strickland and Mark Melancon closed it out and got Blach his second win.

--- From last night, Joe Panik's huge night helped give Blach an early lead. With the help of Ron Wotus and his shift charts, he also put on a show defensively.

--- We're trying something new right after the final pitch: Here are five quick takeaways from the 6-4 win.

--- The options game sent Kelby Tomlinson back to Triple-A on Wednesday when the Giants activated Melancon, but his latest stint in Sacramento comes with a twist. Tomlinson started his third consecutive game in center field on Monday. The Giants are getting a bit more serious about their longtime plan to make Tomlinson a super-utility player. 

“Tommy is a valuable guy in the majors and if we can give him some experience in the outfield, it gives you more flexibility and versatility,” manager Bruce Bochy said. 

This is not Tomlinson’s first foray into the outfield. He did work there in the offseason after the 2015 season and he has played 25 big league innings in left field the last two seasons. This is Tomlinson’s first real experience with center field, and while in the past he has said that the transition isn’t as easy as some might think, Bochy is confident Tomlinson can figure it out. He certainly has the speed to be a semi-regular in the outfield, and the Giants aren’t exactly brimming with quality center field options behind Denard Span, who is dealing with his second injury of the season. 

“It’s a little different now,” Bochy said when asked about Tomlinson’s past experiences in the outfield. “He’s in Sacramento doing it, and knowing there’s a possibility we could need help in the outfield.”

If the switch doesn’t come in handy this season, it could in 2018. Bochy compared Tomlinson’s infield-outfield ability to Eduardo Nuñez, who has found regular playing time in left but is a free agent after the year. 

--- Hunter Pence did some light running in the outfield before Monday’s game. Bochy said Pence is still about a week away from being an option.

--- Bochy has said it a few times now when asked about the standings, so it’s officially a new motto for a team that got off to a brutal start: “We’ve put ourselves in a great situation for a great story.”

--- They're starting to get a little grumpy around here with their team hovering around .500. Perhaps the Cubs thought they could fool a few on the way out of Wrigley.

Agony still present, Kerr uncertain if he can coach Warriors in NBA Finals

Agony still present, Kerr uncertain if he can coach Warriors in NBA Finals

SAN ANTONIO -- Those following the Warriors and their effort to rage through the playoffs should put away those thoughts and hopes that Steve Kerr will return to full-time coaching later this week or sometime before the NBA Finals.

Forget about it, unless you know something he doesn’t.

And if you do, he wants to hear what you have to say.

Don’t get it wrong: Kerr wants to coach, would love to coach. That’s why, even as he feels like hell, he’s hanging around the team like a languid groupie. He wants to be with the Warriors in the heat of battle because they’re his team, within the culture he instilled, and he would like nothing more to get another chance to win The Finals.

But because the procedure he underwent more than two weeks ago at Duke Spine Center did not deliver the relief he’d hoped for, Kerr knows he’s not up to the task and, therefore, continues to operate as sort of a associate head coach to acting head coach Mike Brown.

“Mike is doing great,” Kerr told NBCSportsBayArea.com late Monday night, after the Warriors clinched a third consecutive trip to the NBA Finals with a 129-115 Game 4 win over the Spurs. “He’s such a wonderful human being. He’s so unselfish and team-oriented. I’m proud of him and the job he’s doing, along with the rest of the staff. I wish I could be out there with them. And maybe I will. I don’t know. We’ll see.

“He’s a great partner. And we’re in this together, obviously, but he’s got to make decisions with the staff without me. He’s done a great job of navigating the games. We’re undefeated, so he’s doing something right.”

Kerr can only help from the perimeter. The demands of the job require the coach be able to function at near-peak levels, particularly before and during a game, and he simply can’t. He knows there will be times, all too often, when the discomfort becomes unbearable to such a degree he hardly can think straight.

The agony is visible. The players see it. The staff sees it. Brown sees it, feels it and hears it. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is one of Kerr’s best friends -- as well as a good friend of Brown -- was able to see it during the Western Conference Finals.

“I've spoken with Steve and Mike; we're friends,” Popovich said two hours before Game 4. “We've known each other a long time. But as far as Steve's concerned, it's just a crap situation.

“You know, he's done a phenomenal job. And when you're going through that pain every day and that frustration of not being able to do what you want to do, it's hard to enjoy it at the fullest level. So I feel badly for him all the time but hopeful that stuff will get figured out.”

Nobody wants that more than Kerr, who has tried nearly everything any respectable specialist has recommended. So far, there has been no miracle.

So Kerr forges ahead, getting his Warriors fix by being around the group. By meeting with coaches and players. By meeting with general manager Bob Myers. Kerr was with the Warriors throughout their stay in San Antonio. He was at practices and shootarounds, sometimes on the floor and sometimes sitting in the stands observing from afar.

“I need to be around the guys,” he said. “I don’t want to miss this. Just being in the locker room, being able to talk to the guys means a lot to me. I’m thrilled for them. It’s fun to see how happy they are with three straight trips to The Finals. It’s pretty incredible.”

Kerr has been with the team for at least a few hours every day since May 10, less than a week after his procedure at Duke.

Kerr’s presence has been invaluable, both physically and psychologically, according to staff and players.

“Coach just empowers everybody,” Kevin Durant said. “His message is still the same. Even when he wasn't there in the Utah series, you could still feel his presence. That's what great leaders do.”

Participation, making himself feel useful, is one form of therapy that gives Kerr a semi-satisfying break from the misery.

“He watches film, and he watches the game,” Brown said. “So he gives his perspective from where he is. He gives insight on what we should be doing going forward, what he felt we could have done better, what we did that was good. So he just gives his input, mainly. He addresses the team every once in a while. He doesn't always do that, but he'll address the team from time to time.”

There was some belief that Kerr could return to full-time coaching within a week or so after the procedure, for which he declined to provide details. Warriors CEO Joe Lacob expressed hope Kerr might return “sooner rather than later.” Had it been as successful as Kerr and the doctors hoped, he would have.

That was May 5. Kerr announced he was stepping aside on April 23. As of Wednesday, he was been on leave for a full month.

Asked if he plans to travel during the NBA Finals, Kerr said he hopes so: “It’s like a month away,” he said, exaggerating the nine-day layoff.

He’d rather say with certainty that, yes, he will be accompanying the team because, after all, he’s the head coach.

And he will say that, the moment his body tells him it’s OK to do so.