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Giants support Antonio, Plaxico on his own

JAIME C.HARRIS | 4/12/2011, 4:37 p.m.
Giants support Antonio, Plaxico on his own

In addition to the Pittsburgh Steelers, the New York Giants are the most well run, organizationally sound franchise in football. Owners John Mara and Steve Tisch have been judicious and exceedingly prudent in placing the team in the capable hands of Senior Vice President and General Manager Jerry Reese and head coach Tom Coughlin.

Loyalty and fairness have been staples of the current regime in addressing player contracts and off-the-field issues. But as the Giants opened training camp on Sunday in Albany, the men at the top of the organizational ladder did so facing the most controversial and distracting issue they have had to collectively address.

On Monday, much of their angst was alleviated when a Manhattan grand jury determined there was not sufficient cause to indict the Giants' starting middle linebacker and defensive stalwart Antonio Pierce on gun possession charges.

Last week, Mara issued a statement in part reading that an indictment of Pierce would be "unwarranted," as there was "no criminal intent." Pierce's friend and former teammate, Plaxico Burress, was not as fortunate.

The troubled wide receiver, whose life and football future is now in peril, as expected, was indicted on two counts of criminal possession of a weapon and one count of reckless endangerment. His world came crashing down when he accidentally shot himself in the leg last November at the Latin Quarter nightclub when the Giants were 11-1 and the NFL's best team. They were never the same.

The team's management has to look in the mirror, as they enabled Burress' inflated sense of entitlement by not being unwavering in their disciplining of the talented but immature player during his infraction-filled tenure with the team. Burress will turn 32-years-old next week and will likely be out of football for the next three years. His career may be over. But Pierce gets to continue his. And it is a relief for the Giants, who entered training camp with the linebacker corps the defense's most unsettled and vulnerable unit.

The Giants will not have the same run as they did last season. They were seemingly on their way to a second straight Super Bowl appearance when Burress thought he needed to play thug for a night. A few weeks earlier, they had defeated the eventual champion, the Steelers, on the road. This season will be much more difficult.

The grand jury brought some clarity to the Giants' immediate future. But the unwise choices made by both Burress and Pierce will have a lingering impact as the Giants move forward without one of football's most gifted offensive forces in Burress and a linebacker in Pierce, who is no longer physically dominating and may be mentally worn down by the stress of consequences.