The accidental shooting that left New York Giants receiver Plaxico Burress with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the leg could still pose problems for his fellow player Antonio Pierce, who was with him at the nightclub when it happened and is being investigated in a possible cover-up.
Days after he mistakenly shot himself in the right thigh, Burress, a wide receiver for the Giants, was charged with illegal possession of a gun, fined and suspended for the four remaining games of the regular season.
He won't return for the playoffs, either, because the team also placed him on the reserve non-football injury list.
Pierce still faces suspension for his involvement and potential failure to report the shooting to police. The middle linebacker would be much harder to replace, affecting the team's bid for a second straight Super Bowl title.
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His attorney predicts that Pierce's role won't be considered serious enough to toss him off the team or file charges against him.
"My client is confident that the Giants and the D.A.'s office will understand that his involvement in the recent shooting was a snap judgment to keep his friend from bleeding to death," lawyer Michael F. Bachner told FOX News.
"He was surprised to learn that Burress had a gun on him. Mr. Pierce heard the gunshot. He saw the blood coming down his leg and helped him to the car and drove him to the hospital. ... I do not anticipate any charges against Antonio."
Giants coach Tom Coughlin said Pierce was expected to play in Sunday's game against the Philadelphia Eagles while the team gathers information on the linebacker's role in the Burress shooting.
Coughlin said Pierce would practice Wednesday with the Super Bowl champions.
"Each case is different, each is separate," Coughlin said when asked about the decisive action the Giants took against Burress on Tuesday.
The coach added that there currently is no need to consider potential punishment of Pierce, the Giants' leader of defense.
"There is no doubt we'll do the right thing," Coughlin added, "and that's no threat to the players, they know that."
The Giants punished Burress a day after he was charged with two counts of illegal weapons possession. He shot himself in the right thigh at a Manhattan nightclub early Saturday morning.
Pierce, who was with Burress, has not talked to police about his involvement since the incident. Authorities are trying to determine whether he tried to cover up the shooting; investigators impounded Pierce's Cadillac Escalade and are searching it for any blood or gun residue.
He might face potential charges and a possible suspension if he did.
Coughlin said Wednesday that he used two words in discussing the Burress' situation with the team — disappointment and sadness.
"That sums it all up," Coughlin said. "I had a conversation with Plaxico. He was very humble. He was remorseful. Obviously that doesn't change anything. But you have to understand that he is part of our team and our concern is with he and his family's well being, and the ability of him to get through this circumstance and be healthy again."
The Giants handed down their decision on Burress after Dr. Scott Rodeo, a team physician, examined Burress and told them the gunshot wound would sideline the 31-year-old player for 4-to-6 weeks.
The Giants (11-1) are deep at wide receiver, however, with players such as Domenik Hixon and Sinorice Moss who can replace the man who caught the game-winning pass in the 17-14 Super Bowl win over the New England Patriots.
It would be much harder to replace Pierce.
Pierce smiled but declined to speak to The Associated Press on Wednesday morning when he reported to Giants Stadium about 8 a.m.
Running back Ahmad Bradshaw was also in the club, but not near the other two players, his attorney said.
The New York Post reported in Wednesday's edition that police impounded Pierce's SUV on Tuesday to look for any blood or gunpowder residue that might be inside. Following the shooting, police say Pierce drove Burress to the hospital and returned to New Jersey with Burress' gun in the glove compartment of his black Cadillac Escalade.
Pierce's lawyer said Tuesday he contacted prosecutors as soon as he was hired by the linebacker on Monday.
"After the events in question, Mr. Pierce did what any other reasonable person would do under the circumstances, he hired counsel," attorney Michael Bachner said. He said he hasn't been notified that Pierce will be charged.
"Mr. Pierce, given the extraordinary circumstances of that evening, acted responsibly in trying to save what could have been the life of a friend," Bachner said.
Bradshaw's attorney, Charles Stacy, said his client wasn't suspected of any wrongdoing.
Both players said they were planning to speak with the district attorney's office soon.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg spoke out again about the case Tuesday, saying he talked to Giants president John Mara and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. He told them the law says "you see something, you got to call the cops. That's the thing you should do."
Police also plan to interview the people at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center who treated Burress and did not report the shooting, as required by law.
Dr. Josyann Abisaab was suspended for not reporting Burress injury. She apparently arrived at the hospital at 2 a.m. to treat him, but it's not clear why she was called.
Abisaab could not be reached for comment. She graduated from the University of Rochester School of Medicine and has no history of state disciplinary action. She is affiliated with the hospital and specializes in internal and emergency medicine.
Giants officials expressed concern for Burress.
"As we have said since Saturday morning, our concern is for Plaxico's health and well-being," Mara said. "This is an important time for him to take care of his body and heal up and also deal with the very serious legal consequences and other issues in his life. When I spoke with Plaxico he expressed great remorse for letting down his teammates."
Neither Burress nor his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, was immediately available for comment.
Receiver Amani Toomer, whose 13 years with the team make his the current longest serving player, called the situation unfortunate.
"There is nothing good that will come out of it and there isn't much to say," he said as players reported for practice Wednesday. "It's just tough, it's just tough for everyone to deal with. I'm just glad he is OK. It could have been worse."
Burress faces illegal weapons possession charges from the shooting, which carries a penalty of 3 1/2 to 15 years in prison if he's convicted. Burress is due back in court again March 31, unless he reaches a plea agreement.
Fines in the NFL typically mean a player loses a paycheck for each game he misses. In Burress' case, that would mean roughly $206,000 per regular season game. He also was due to receive $1 million from his signing bonus on Dec. 10. It was not immediately clear whether the team still had to make the payment.
Burress has been fined dozens of times since joining the team in 2005, and he was suspended for a game earlier this season for missing a team meeting. He was also fined $45,000 by the NFL for abusing an official and throwing a ball into the stands in a game.
Burress has caught 244 passes for 3,681 yards and 33 touchdowns since joining the team in 2005 as a free agent.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.