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Rex Ryan says the Jets have to win against the Giants in Saturday's Christmas Eve showdown at MetLife Stadium. And if they don't, he says the blame will all fall on him.
Plaxico Burress had plenty of memorable moments in four seasons with the New York Giants. Well, he's planning to add another on Saturday — against them this time, as a member of the Jets.
"I definitely want to get in the end zone once, maybe twice, maybe three or four," Burress said Wednesday. "I'm going to try and play lights-out football. My goal is to go out and play the best game I've played to date this season."
That's saying a lot, considering Burress had a three-touchdown performance against San Diego in October. But this game is extra-special for Burress, who'll face his former teammates in the regular season for the first time — and with both the Jets (8-6) and Giants (7-7) needing wins to maintain pace in their playoff races.
"From a personal standpoint and more from what we need as a team," Burress said, "if we want to get into the playoffs and make the run that we believe that we can, we need to go out and play our best football."
From his Super Bowl-winning catch to his clashes with Tom Coughlin, there's plenty of history there with Burress and the Giants. He was cut by them in April 2009 after he accidentally shot himself in the thigh in a Manhattan nightclub in 2008, an incident for which he served 20 months in prison on a gun charge.
Less than two months after he was released, he signed with the Jets, even though the Giants and the Pittsburgh Steelers, his other former team, were interested in bringing him back. Burress instead chose Rex Ryan and the Jets, and gradually worked his body back into football shape.
While there have been some games in which he has had little impact statistically — two games with no catches and just four in his last three games — he has had some moments where he has looked like the guy that caught the winning pass against New England in the 2008 Super Bowl.
"Plaxico has been very good for them in the red zone," Giants safety Antrel Rolle said. "He's a big threat."
Not bad for a guy who missed two seasons.
"I think Plax is one of the great receivers in this league," Giants cornerback Corey Webster said. "How he goes about playing is a rare commodity."
That's exactly why the Jets wanted him. He has 38 catches for 521 yards and a team-leading eight touchdowns, and has been perhaps the biggest reason the Jets are No. 1 in red-zone offense this season. That's a presence even the Giants might like to have on their offense.
"They knew what type of player I am," Burress said. "There's no doubt about it. Those coaches that are over there, some of the players, they know me in games like this when your back's against the wall, and all those kind of things. So I think they know what kind of effort they're going to get out of me on Saturday."
Despite not being with the Giants a few years, the offense Eli Manning runs is still familiar to Burress, and he recently asked Ryan if he wanted to "visit with me about the Giants."
"That's impressive that he still remembers a lot of things that they did: calls, things like that," offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said. "He's even had some plays that he's brought up that he used to run and he used to have success with."
Burress has kept in close contact with some of his former teammates, including Brandon Jacobs, Aaron Ross, Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck.
"We shared something special that they'll never be able to take away from us," Burress said. "That being said, we've developed a relationship outside of football. It doesn't matter what we do on the field, we'll still always have that relationship."
Even if that means someone has to lose Saturday.
"Being able to play in this kind of game on Christmas Eve, you know somebody's going to wake up with a bittersweet Christmas," Burress said. "And it's not going to be me."
Burress thinks this will be "the hardest-fought football game" either team has played all season. It's also one he has looked forward to from the moment he looked at the schedule.
"I was like, you know, I get a chance to play against my old boys," he said. "Being in the situation that we're in, it's a great setting. You couldn't have it any better. This is what playing in New York is all about."
He signed a one-year deal with the Jets in late-July and hasn't thought about his future just yet. That, he says, will come hopefully sometime after a long playoff run.
"It's a business first and I don't know if they'll want me back or not," Burress said. "I'm just going to go about it as business as usual. I'm going to go out and do my best in football games. You look at it from where I stand, you have four work days left, two games. So, we have to go out and win these football games if we want to even start talking about all those types of things."