Eli Manning missed Plaxico Burress when the receiver visited the Giants in free agency. But the New York Giants quarterback plans to catch up with his old target in person when the Giants and Jets face each other on Saturday in a preseason game.
“I don’t think it will be weird,” Manning said of seeing Burress in a green and white Jets jersey. “If you play in this league long enough you will play against some teammates. He was a great teammate for the Giants, we had a great run together but things happened and obviously he is with the Jets now and playing well so I am happy for him.”
“I haven’t seen him in a long time so I am looking forward to seeing him before or after the game,” he added.
Several Giants campaigned for the team to re-sign Burress, who opted to take a fully guaranteed one-year contract worth $3.017 million from the Jets.
But before Burress joined Rex Ryan, he visited with the Giants and met with coach Tom Coughlin and general manager Jerry Reese. During that visit, the wideout got to catch up with several Giants but Manning was not one of them.
Manning was in a meeting at the time when Burress was visiting. But for the most part, the quarterback wanted stay out of the Burress sweepstakes. He made it clear that the Burress situation was a management decision and that he did not want to offend his teammates and receivers by campaigning for Burress.
Manning says the two spoke by phone shortly after the receiver was released from prison, but the quarterback never made it upstate for a visit while Burress was incarcerated.
“I thought about it a few times,” Manning said. “It just never worked out. Just one of those deals. As soon as he got out, called him a few weeks after and just talked to him for a little bit. It sounded like he learned a lot and it changed his life.”
Justin Tuck, one of the Giants who lobbied hard for a Burress reunion, said he can tell Burress is happy with his new team.
“I really do think that Plaxico is definitely, [based on] his first outing, making the best of his situation,” Tuck said. “You are happy for him because he deserves every good thing that is coming his way right now.”
One of the many reasons several Giants wanted Burress back was so that they would not have to one day face him in another uniform.
This year, the Giants will face Burress twice since the Giants play the Jets on Christmas Eve. Tuck saw the highlights of Burress’ impressive preseason debut with three receptions for 66 yards and one touchdown.
He noticed how Mark Sanchez hit Burress on a couple of passes that looked a lot like the kind of throws Manning used to connect with Burress on, such as an over-the-shoulder throw.
“It looked familiar,” Tuck said. “Maybe Sanchez went back and watched some of the games that he played with Eli but he looked good out there. He really did.”
One thing Tuck can’t get used to is seeing big No. 17 in green.
“It is pretty weird,” Tuck said. “Just watching the highlights is pretty weird. But going up against him, I know all of us are competitors and I am sure he is going to try to make a splash. And we are going to try to make sure he doesn’t. It will be fun.”
Manning, who suffered a bloody gash on his head when his helmet came off the last time he played the Jets in the preseason last year, is looking forward to Saturday’s game and catching up with Burress again.
“He looked back to his old self, seemed to be running well, made some good catches,” Manning said. “Happy to see that.”