The former New York Giants star tearfully told his family goodbye as he surrendered to begin his prison stint for attempted criminal possession of a weapon after accidentally shooting himself in the thigh.
Burress was indicted on two counts of weapon possession and one count of reckless endangerment and pleaded guilty Aug. 20. He had faced a minimum sentence of 3 1/2 years on those charges if convicted at trial. He pleaded to the lesser charge and agreed to the two-year term.
With time off for good behavior, Burress likely will serve 20 months. He will be monitored an additional two years after he is freed from prison, which could come as early as the spring of 2011.
The Giants released Burress in April, but the 32-year-old told ESPN he hopes to resume his NFL career when he completes his sentence.
Before the hearing began, Burress played with his preschool-age son, Elijah. Then he hugged and kissed his wife, child, father, grandmother and stepmother.
Burress was so soft-spoken during his apologetic courtroom address that onlookers could not understand him.
Defense lawyer Benjamin Brafman said, “This is a very real tragic case in many, many ways.” He called Burress “a fundamentally decent man.”
Burress, who caught the winning touchdown for the Giants over the previously undefeated New England Patriots in the final minute of the 2008 Super Bowl, and former teammate Antonio Pierce were at the Latin Quarter nightclub in Manhattan last November when a gun tucked into Burress’ waistband slipped down his leg and fired, wounding him.
The gun was not licensed in New York or in New Jersey, where Burress lived. His license to carry a concealed weapon in Florida had expired in May 2008.
Pierce, who drove Burress to a hospital after the shooting, was not indicted.
Brafman previously said Burress was thinking of his family in taking the plea, but the attorney questioned the recommended prison sentence.
“This was not an intentional criminal act,” Brafman said the day of the plea. “In my judgment, a two-year prison sentence is a very severe punishment.”
NFL.com analyst Gil Brandt, once the director of player personnel for the Dallas Cowboys, said Burress won’t be too old for a comeback when he’s released from prison.
“First of all, Plaxico is a guy who keeps himself in pretty good shape,” Brandt said. “Lots of times, guys get heavy in the offseason. He is not a guy who has done that.”
But Brandt intimated it could be difficult for Burress to reacquire his football skills after so much time on the sidelines.
“It’s like a person who has gone to college or high school and drops out of school for two years,” he said. “It is hard to reacquire your study habits. I think it is hard to reacquire the work habits you need to be successful when you have been away from the game for two years or so.”
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press