Stuck in prison and his NFL career derailed, Plaxico Burress insisted he'd be back one day.
Rex Ryan and the New York Jets are giving him that second chance.
"I'm just grateful," a confident yet humble Burress said Sunday night. "I'm excited about the opportunity and I'm going to give them everything I've got because they put their trust in me to be able to come in and contribute and have an impact."
The former Super Bowl star with the Giants signed a one-year deal with the Jets on Sunday after recently being released from prison after serving 20 months on a gun charge. Burress, who turns 34 on Aug. 12, caught the game-winning touchdown in the Giants' upset of the unbeaten New England Patriots in the 2008 Super Bowl, before his career derailed after he accidentally shot himself in a New York nightclub later that year.
"When something's taken away from you that you love, you know you love it more," he said. "You learn that playing in this business is definitely a privilege. I definitely miss being away from the game and the guys and being able to compete every Sunday with the best athletes in the world."
Now, the Jets are hoping Burress can revive his career the way Michael Vick did with the Eagles.
Vick served 18 months in prison for his involvement in a dogfighting ring before returning to football in 2009. He was eased back into things by the Eagles before taking over as the starting quarterback last year and capping a terrific season by being selected as the AP's Comeback Player of the Year.
Burress has a chance to make even more of an immediate mark for the Jets. He'll join the recently re-signed Santonio Holmes as one of Mark Sanchez's top receivers.
"I've never played with a guy on the other side of me who was that explosive," Burress said of Holmes. "It's going to be fun. I think we're going to drive some defensive coordinators crazy — which way they want to roll their coverage in certain situations, in the red zone, so it'll be interesting to see how teams match up against us."
ESPN first reported the deal, saying it is for more than $3 million fully guaranteed. Burress was at the airport in Los Angeles on his way to a meeting with the San Francisco 49ers, ESPN reported, but canceled that trip when the Jets contacted him. He agreed to come back to New York, but in green and white this time, without even visiting with the Jets or speaking to Rex Ryan.
"There was no sales pitch needed," he said. "You just look at all the pieces that are in place. You get a chance to compete for a world championship every year, play for a great organization, play with a great quarterback. I get to play beside Santonio Holmes and a future Hall of Famer in LaDainian Tomlinson."
Burress also appreciated how owner Woody Johnson and general manager Mike Tannenbaum met with him in 2009, despite his legal situation being uncertain at the time.
"They were really the first team to support me with everything that I had going on at that time," he said, "and it just felt right for me to be able to come here with everything that I had going on a couple of years ago, to have those guys approach me in the way that they did I just felt I made the right decision."
A few hours after announcing the agreement, the Jets were accepting pre-orders for replica Burress jerseys for $80 on their website. Matt Higgins, the Jets' executive vice president of business operations, tweeted that Burress would be wearing No. 17 — Braylon Edwards' number the past two seasons.
Burress met with the Pittsburgh Steelers, where he spent his first five seasons, on Saturday after sitting down with Giants coach Tom Coughlin on Friday.
"His decision was to go elsewhere," Coughlin said. "It sounded like a bigger guarantee. I don't know all of the facts about that. That's what happens in this business. His decision was made and, again, we wish he and his family well."
Burress said there was a sense of closure with that meeting, and it was good "to kind of turn the page."
Because of the NFL's post-lockout rules, Burress can't practice with the team until Thursday. But clearly, the Jets are confident — sight unseen — that he has a lot left as they try for a Super Bowl run even though he hasn't played in the NFL since 2008.
There will be plenty of questions: How soon can he be in football shape? Has he lost a significant amount of speed? Does he still have those sure hands? Can he handle the media spotlight of being back in New York?
"I feel I'm in great shape," he said, adding that he'll surely be a little rusty. "I think a lot of people are going to be surprised with my conditioning and different things I've been doing in South Florida to get myself back to where I want to be, and that's definitely to get back to playing at a high level real soon."
One thing the Jets know is that Burress gives Sanchez a big receiver — he's 6-foot-5 — who's a red-zone presence to complement Holmes, Jerricho Cotchery, Dustin Keller and a solid running game with Shonn Greene and Tomlinson.
Burress pleaded guilty in August 2009 to attempted criminal possession of a weapon after accidentally shooting himself in the thigh at a Manhattan nightclub in November 2008, accepting a two-year prison term. He was released about three months early for good behavior, but will be on parole for two years.
He was told to get and keep a job, undergo substance abuse testing, obey any curfew established by his Florida parole officer, support his family and undergo any anger counseling or other conditions required by his parole officer.
Burress has 505 catches for 7,845 yards and 55 touchdowns in his NFL career with the Steelers and Giants.
The move softens the blow for the Jets after losing out on cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, who was New York's top priority after re-signing Holmes. But Asomugha surprisingly signed with Philadelphia, and the Jets were forced to turn their attention elsewhere.
Burress' career with the Giants was filled with terrific moments along with troubles — missed meetings, a one-game suspension, a contract dispute. Then came the incident that changed his life.
He was released in April 2009, a few months before beginning his prison sentence. Now he's free and motivated to show he can still be a productive playmaker, and the Jets are willing to let Burress prove it while they go for a Super Bowl of their own.
"I've been around for a little while now and I'll just sit down with the coaches, sit down with the quarterback," Burress said, "and just learn the formations and where I need to be at. I don't think it's going to take me that long at all."
AP Sports Writers Tom Canavan in East Rutherford, N.J., and Will Graves in Pittsburgh, and freelance writer Jim Hague in East Rutherford, N.J., contributed to this report.