He played in one of the most dramatic Super Bowls in the history of the NFL, catching the game-winning touchdown with 35 seconds remaining in regulation to lift the New York Giants over the heavily-favored and undefeated New England Patriots in early 2008. He delivered one of the most shocking upsets in the history of football.
But when he appears before the Manhattan State Supreme Court on Aug. 20 to be formally charged with gun possession — with his NFL future hanging in the balance — then he'll really know what it's like to be under pressure.
The former Giants wide receiver accidentally shot himself in the leg with an illegal gun in a nightclub in November. Ever since then, his life has been in a tailspin. It will all come to a head, finally, in less than three weeks.
If he is convicted on two counts of criminal possession of a weapon and one count of reckless endangerment, Burress could land in jail for anywhere from 3 1/2 years to 15 years.
Suddenly, the prospect of losing the Super Bowl doesn't sound so daunting.
The 31-year-old could still opt for a plea bargain, but if he does so, he faces a minimum jail sentence of two years — and if he ends up in jail, he can pretty much kiss his career goodbye.
Or has he already?
Burress' attorney even seems to be losing hope that he can get his client off without any time in the slammer, telling Newsday that he is facing a long uphill climb: "When you have the mayor and the district attorney both publicly demanding a maximum prison sentence, it was perhaps too much to hope for the grand jury to conduct a sympathetic review of the unique facts of this sad case."
Burress can start the countdown now: He has 12 days to scrounge up as much sympathy as he can. But it doubtlessly will be much harder than it sounds.
He was carrying an unliscensed gun. He shot himself. He's extremely lucky he didn't hurt anyone else. He made a terrible decision. What else is there to say?
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