Burress wants to forget his bad week
Steelers wide receiver Plaxico Burress has been home and back this week, taking care of some family business. It probably was a more pleasant trip than the one he took last Sunday — to hell and back.
The week did not start well for Burress, who dropped five passes in a 24-6 loss to the Houston Texans at Heinz Field. It was one of his worst days as a pro, and included his mishandling of what appeared to be a sure touchdown pass in the fourth quarter when the outcome was still in question.
Burress didn't see the poor performance coming. But he wasn't surprised by the reaction it created, flushing out many Burress critics.
"People are so predictable," he said.
"When you do bad, people are going to be down on you, but this Sunday (when the Steelers play the Carolina Panthers at Heinz Field), people are going to be clapping and cheering. Life is very funny that way."
On the heels of the loss to the Texans, Burress asked for and received permission from coach Bill Cowher to miss practice Wednesday and go home to Virginia Beach, Va., to be with his brother. He returned yesterday, rejoining his teammates at practice, but offering few details about the reason for his trip.
"It was nothing, really, concerning anything serious, life or death," said Burress, whose mother Adelaide died in March.
"It was just that someone needed to be home to support my family," Burress said. "I wanted to be home and be supportive.
"You always want to go out and practice with the team because everyone is out here working hard for the next week. But there are certain things that we ask, not as players, as people. We have other concerns, too. My family is more important than football. I'm pretty sure it's the same for everybody else here."
Burress' teammate and running mate at wide receiver, Hines Ward, felt sympathy for Burress.
"He's been through a lot this past weekend with his family," Ward said. "Maybe that was the cause of the game, the reason he played the game like he did. But, like a professional, you have to move on. Everybody has one bad game. He might come out and have a 250-yard day (against the Panthers) and then everybody else would forget about last week."
Steelers wide receivers coach Kenny Jackson said he has no concerns about Burress, who surpassed 1,000 yards receiving last week for the second consecutive season. Jackson said that he expects Burress to fight through his spell of adversity. "The easiest thing to do is just quit, like most people do, and go off on the side and just take it. But that's not Plax," Jackson said.
"He could have came out of the game and told Tommy (Maddox), 'Don't throw me the ball,' or 'Look, I just don't feel it today.' But you just go back to work."
Jackson said solving Burress' problems shouldn't be difficult.
"You have to go back to fundamentals. The bottom line is you have to look the ball into your hands. It sounds simple. It is simple. He has to concentrate. Too many people depend on him."
Jackson, a wide receiver in the NFL for eight seasons, said he would have worried, if Burress was failing to get open. Jackson said he has seen pass catchers deliberately allow themselves to be covered to avoid having the ball thrown their way.
"That's when you have a problem," he said. "He was getting open."
Jackson said Burress' "aloof" personality sometimes creates the false impression that he doesn't play the game with the requisite passion.
"I know he doesn't go around like some people, throwing helmets, slamming things and all that," Jackson said. "That's not this kid. I know it wasn't a situation where he didn't care and it didn't matter. It mattered. It hurt. It hurt not only me, it hurt him."
Burress, who has 64 receptions for 1,026 yards and six touchdowns this season, was a reliably consistent pass catcher after Maddox became the quarterback Sept. 29 until Maddox's injury Nov. 17. He has caught at least four passes in each of the past 11 games, but he hasn't scored a touchdown since getting two in the 34-34 tie with the Atlanta Falcons on Nov. 10.
"It's a very humbling game," said Burress, who answered questions for about 20 minutes last Sunday from wave after wave of reporters. "One week, you can be on top. The next week, you can be on the bottom. Everybody says you're only as good as your last game.
"That's the one thing about this business. Everybody isn't going to be good on every weekend. When you do great things, you have to be humble about it."
Nonetheless, Burress said there's more to his game than the dropped passes last Sunday.
"To let some bad plays bother you and say what type of player you are, no," he said. "If you believe what everybody is saying about you, you're really not focusing on what's going on."