Plaxico Burress had been a free man for mere minutes. During his two years behind bars, he no doubt fantasized about that moment, about the prison doors unlocking with a satisfying sound, about walking outdoors and breathing fresh air and resuming his life - and then, of course, being greeted by Drew Rosenhaus.
Burress barely had time to adjust his eyes to the outside light when Rosenhaus appeared. The agent materialized suddenly from the cover of the morning fog and attached himself to Burress the way stingrays suction-cup their mouths to the hand of whichever aquarium employee is holding fresh fish at the moment.
"It's a beautiful day," Burress said while Rosenhaus hovered behind him. "It's a beautiful day to be reunited with my family . . . As far as football is concerned, if and when everything is settled and when they get back on the field, I'll be ready."
Rosenhaus was also ready, and he did not let pride or class slow him down.
There was Rosenhaus, patting the former New York Giants wide receiver/self-inflicted gunshot wound victim on the back.
There was Rosenhaus, rubbing Burress' shoulders in a choreographed show of public bonhomie and creepy personal space invasion.
There was Rosenhaus literally jumping into his client's arms before Burress folded himself into a black, tinted-out Land Rover and made his escape.
And, there was Rosenhaus, all too willing to wade back into the media morass and answer questions on behalf of his recently released client.
Rosenhaus, ever gallant, jumped in front of a pack of television cameras the way a Secret Service agent might leap in front of a bullet to save a president. How noble of Rosenhaus to take the body blow on Burress' behalf. Rosenhaus probably didn't want to do it, but he sacrificed himself because that's his natural and immediate impulse; valor and honesty are reflexive for him. And if the drawn-out and less-than-informative Q&A session with reporters helped boost his personal brand, well, that was surely an unplanned consequence.
"I wouldn't rule out any team, I wouldn't rule out the Giants, I wouldn't rule out any club," Rosenhaus said. "I really won't talk about specific teams because I don't want to hurt his position. As far as the Giants, my personal opinion is he wouldn't rule them out. I certainly wouldn't."
The shameless - er, my mistake, selfless - recital was at least entertaining to watch. Rosenhaus, more than Scott Boras or any of the other so-called super agents, always seems comfortable in those forced, awkward, prepackaged exchanges with the media. From the legendary "next question" driveway workout/news conference with Terrell Owens to his unrelenting posturing during the current lockout, Rosenhaus has proven he understands the theater of it all - even if his tireless production is often panned by the critics and held up as little more than a self-aggrandizing one-man show. Not everyone can pull that off and look relaxed. In another life, Rosenhaus might be at home working the main stage at Risque - exposing himself for money while never breaking eye contact.
"We are going to be open to all 32 teams," Rosenhaus added. "Ultimately this will be Plax's decision, not mine. I am here to help him pick the best spot and get the very best contract. And that is what we will do."
That is, in fact, what he does. He is a greed merchant, and unabashedly so. Sometimes, that position comes at the expense of his clients. If you're one of the people hoping the Eagles will sign the soon-to-be- 34-year-old Burress, you should first consider how that might affect another of Rosenhaus' clients. DeSean Jackson hired Rosenhaus to make the young wide receiver a rich man, to free Jackson from the crushing yoke of what he believes is an inequitable contract.
Jackson wants to get paid, and has said so. It would obviously be easier for Jackson to get a fat new contract if he puts up huge numbers this season. The best way to do that is to get the ball, but as it stands he is already forced to share the pigskin with several talented skill position players, among them Shady McCoy, Jeremy Maclin, Jason Avant, and Brent Celek. Add Burress to that lot and, well, there's only one ball to go around. But Jackson would surely welcome Burress into the fold, even at the possible expense of his stats and the potential harm that might do to negotiating his next deal. Jackson wouldn't pout or cause problems if that happened. No. Never.
Whatever happens with Burress and Jackson, Rosenhaus will be just fine. He is a rich man, and his stable of wide receivers (and lots of other players) promises to make him richer still. Perhaps now he can purchase a shirt that fits. The day Burress was released, Rosenhaus was wearing a tight black "smedium" polo that looked as if it was cutting off the circulation to his brain. Of course, Rosenhaus would never let something like that stop him.
Read his past columns at philly.com/gonzo