It was a Giant distraction.
New York's mighty football team can pretend all it wants that it is more focused than ever for today's NFC East game with the Eagles at Giants Stadium, but they're fooling themselves. When they say their preparation wasn't affected by the unfolding controversy of Plaxico Burress' arrest by New York City police and the team's subsequent four-game suspension of its star receiver, they're crazy.
"I think we tried to let the players know exactly what the circumstances are and what's going on," coach Tom Coughlin said during a conference call Wednesday. "And then we try to get back to work and we do put a lot of emphasis on the preparation."
Good luck with that. The problem is Coughlin and his players, through no fault of their own, have no idea how all of this is going to play out. The players' union is fighting Burress' suspension, the New York police reportedly were questioning middle linebacker Antonio Pierce on Friday and the Giants are trying to act as if nothing out of the ordinary is going on around them.
"We are focused and we are ready and come Sunday we will prove that at 1 o'clock," Pierce told reporters after Giants practice Thursday. "I am about as focused as I could be. When distractions come up, you turn a negative into a positive and that is my option."
Sounds good, but unless Pierce is some sort of alien with super powers, his mind had to be wandering this week as report after report discussed his role in the surreal Saturday morning event that resulted in Burress allegedly shooting himself in the leg with his own unregistered handgun.
Coughlin acted Wednesday as if the Giants were able to put the whole episode behind them after he told the team that Burress had been suspended for the remainder of the season.
"We had to move on," he said. "We had 52 other guys . . . that have got to be able to move forward instead of the constant questions."
In case Coughlin hasn't noticed since then, the questions haven't stopped and they won't for a while.
Can the Giants overcome this monumental distraction? Maybe. They are a tremendously talented football team on a mission to repeat as Super Bowl champions.
But the real test for how the Giants are going to handle this sticky situation wasn't a week ago in Washington. It's today in their own stadium.
Yes, the Burress incident happened before the Giants went out and took apart the Redskins at FedEx Field, but the players didn't have to answer any questions about it before that game. Those are the only questions they've answered this week.
Go back and read the stories in the New York area newspapers the last five days and see if you can find one about the Giants' actual game today against the Eagles.
From Tuesday through Friday, a total of 116 stories from New York area newspapers that cover the Giants appeared on theredzone.org Web site, a terrific place to find NFL news. Exactly one of them mentioned the Eagles in the headline.
In that same time frame, a total of 48 Eagles-related stories were written in Philadelphia-area newspapers and 17 of them mentioned the Giants in the headline.
So while the Eagles fielded questions about how to attack the Giants, the Giants fielded questions about the mess created by their star wide receiver.
That's a Giant distraction.
If there's ever a good time to be charged with possession of marijuana, driving without insurance, and speeding, then New York Jets defensive end Shaun Ellis has such good timing.
With the New York media focused on Burress' little Manhattan nightclub incident, Ellis' traffic stop received much less attention than it might have otherwise. Ellis apologized in a statement and will play today against San Francisco.
Green Bay blew a late fourth-quarter lead last week and lost, 35-31, to the Carolina Panthers. The loss left the Packers with a 5-7 record and all but ended their playoff hopes.
Perhaps that's why this headline in the Green Bay Gazette Friday is so disturbing: Rodgers among the NFL's best at play-action passes.
Really? When's the parade?
My lasting memory of O.J. Simpson the football player will always be the final game of the 1973 season at snowy Shea Stadium when the great Buffalo Bills running back became the first player in NFL history to eclipse 2,000 rushing yards in a season. Simpson ran for 2,003 yards in a 14-game season, magical numbers to a wide-eyed 10-year-old just falling in love with football.
If only time could have stopped then for the Juice, who is now a 61-year-old convict and is despised by many people.
Because the Eagles' last game was on a Thursday, I wasn't able to make my weekly prediction in this space. Of course, I picked the Eagles to beat the Cardinals, 48-20, evening my prediction record at 6-6 for the season.
So what do I make of this must-win week for the Eagles? Believe it or not, I think they're going to win. That may seem inexplicable given that the Giants are clearly the better team. But as you read above, the Giants have had some issues to deal with this week and the fact that the Eagles won't have to deal with Plaxico Burress in the red zone could make a huge difference.