New York Giants Must Not Be Distracted When It Comes To Burress, Barber

Ryan CookFeatured ColumnistMarch 10, 2011

GLENDALE, AZ - NOVEMBER 23:  Wide receiver Plaxico Burress #17 of the New York Giants warms up for the game with the Arizona Cardinals on November 23, 2008 at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. The Giants won 37-29.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Shoot yourself in the leg—return two years later. Retire from football—make a remarkable comeback on Twitter. There's always a second chance in the NFL.

The New York Giants have some serious thinking to do this offseason. It's not the usual kind of thought process which surrounds this time of year, what with April's annual draft approaching. Instead, it revolves around free agency and two pesky individuals in particular.

Plaxico Burress and Tiki Barber.

The unseen face of adversity had seemingly discounted these two from ever returning to New York. Burress accidentally shot himself in the thigh at a Manhattan night club, resulting in a prison sentence and a three-year layoff. While Barber's excuse of "wear and tear" was fitting for a running back that endured numerous heavy hits over the course of a nine-year career.

Apparently, though, both men have been taking notes from Charlie Sheen's messy book. Burress and Barber aren't ready to rollover just yet.

For Burress, he is no longer inmate 09-R-3260 come June 6. He will become a man that has to rise from the bottom up, regrow his trademark facial hair which was shaved upon entering Rikers Island and attempt to find a new home in the NFL.

He will also have to overcome the mental challenges that throw stray bullets his way. Criticism, verbal abuse and naysayers all come with the gamble of imitating Michael Vick.

In Barber's case, the challenge is just as difficult. Four years spent at home lecturing guests on his own personal museum was mildly entertaining at the time. That doesn't discount the lack of interest for a veteran running back throughout the league, however.

Wave hello, Brian Westbrook.

Where do the Giants fit in with this situation?

Nowhere. And that's the way it should be.

Let's get one thing straight, the Giants aren't a bad football team. Consistency toward the end of the season has been an ongoing issue, yes, but a bad team they are not.

Say what you will about coach Tom Coughlin, he gets the job done in New York. With every obvious problem that sprouts like a persistent garden weed, Coughlin is quick to stomp—even though the Giants unpredictable running game is still the thorn in the Giants' foot.

That said, it doesn't take a passionate New Yorker dressed in a tattered Michael Strahan jersey to work out that growing pains still exist.

Obviously, Coughlin is on a hot seat as of now, that's an easy one straight off the bat. 

The Giants haven't made the playoffs since 2008, where they lost to the Philadelphia Eagles 23-11 at home. Since then, fans have been disgruntled, cursing the duel ownership of John Mara and Steve Tisch, more or less disregarding 2010's successful draft campaign that saw the team acquire Jason Pierre-Paul in the first round.

Then there is the bigger picture that worries every blue-collar New Yorker—the interstate rivalry.

The Jets have gained the upper hand behind Rex Ryan's bottomless wallet and loud mouth. It was going to happen eventually, although the Giants only have to point a finger toward the trophy cabinet to prove case and point.

Still, New York have reseeded. The Eagles are fan-favorites in the NFC East thanks to Michael Vick's pistol precision and Jason Garrett's Dallas Cowboys aren't easily overlooked either, despite the bandwagon losing all four wheels last year.

This probably constitutes the Giants' lack of interest in Barber's services.

"We wish Tiki nothing but the best and when we are able to make the transaction, we will release him from our reserve/retired list," the team said on Wednesday.

It's a smart move by the Giants, really. Why would New York try and keep Barber while Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs are already great runners to begin with?

It would be like the Packers signing Brett Favre, when Aaron Rodgers is obviously a godsend. All of this talk acts as just another distraction.

But on the Burress front, nothing is certain, yet. The Giants said goodbye to their Super Bowl winning receiver three years ago, wished him the best and watched the rest of America stew over another failed athlete.

Burress then went to prison, the NFL forgot about him for a while and life went on.

Now the problem has come back, and reality is chomping at the bit.

Like the running back spot, the Giants aren't short on wide receivers, they have Mario Manningham, Steve Smith and Hakeem Nicks to carry the load, making up for a rather young roster out East. At the same time, this is an area that Burress feels he can perhaps take advantage of, by adding a touch of leadership to the team.

I hate to refer to the overused cliche of "veteran presence," but it really does wonders for this argument.  Burress has eight years of experience under his belt—this we realize—but he also knows what it takes to come from the bottom-up, something he will take another crack at shortly.

Burress is also a shining example of how not to behave in society. Carrying a gun as a professional athlete is dumb enough, but taking one into a packed night club?

That's asking for trouble...duh.

Don't get too ahead of yourself, though, Burress won't leave prison for another three months. He can educate the rest of the Giants players and fans on hardships, yet he also has to perform on the field in order to stage a successful comeback.

It's a two-way street. Stay on the straight and narrow—receive invites to Oprah like Michael Vick. Veer off and stray into oncoming traffic, risk a life of O.J Simpson-style antics and court hearings.

Overall, it's an area Giants CEO John Mara tried to hold his tongue on up until last year, although he was right when saying this:

"I hope it's a wake-up call to some of the players. I hope they've all learned a lesson—that you make a bad choice, a bad judgment, it can cost you your career and it can cost you having to go to prison. It's a terrible situation when you think about what he threw away by doing what he did. It's terrible. He had all that talent, he had a brand-new contract, he had a brand-new baby. It really is an American tragedy."

Since Burress' incident, gun violence has become a running concern throughout the NFL. Legendary quarterback Steve McNair headlines the most noteworthy victims, after being shot in 2009 alongside his girlfriend.

As for the Giants, reclaiming Burress is one big pool of speculation.  Sign him and you receive a player who knows the team's system well and at the very least ,could become a realistic educator for younger players.  Leave him to stray, other teams may snag him up, even though that is doubtful for the time being.

Distractions have reactions, the Cowboys found that out the hard way on separate occasions.

New York would be wise to steer clear of the railroad tracks for the time being and allow the train to pass by until the draft is over. There is no need to keep Barber and Burress is still three months away from release.

Let it be. The Giants have other concerns.

Don't allow Big Blue to turn into a Big Blew over the course of the offseason.

Ryan Cook is an Australian Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report and a writer for Acme Packing Company. He is also a guest writer for PackerChatters. You can follow him on Twitter or send him an email: