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Lawyer: Pierce to Testify for Grand Jury if Asked

Antonio Pierce didn't know New York Giants teammate Plaxico Burress was carrying a gun last weekend until it accidentally discharged, injuring the receiver in the right thigh, Pierce's attorney said Thursday.

"He had no idea Plaxico had a weapon," attorney Michael Bachner said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.

Bachner said Pierce would cooperate with authorities and testify before a Manhattan grand jury about the incident if asked to testify, which has yet to happen.

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"Antonio has always taken a position that he will be cooperative in the investigation with law enforcement and should Antonio be subpoenaed to the grand jury, and we have no idea that is going to happen, but if he is he is going to abide by his obligations as a citizen," Bachner said.

Whether Pierce goes before the grand jury is up to the District Attorney's office, Bachner said.

Pierce refused to discuss the shooting and its aftermath after practice Thursday. But he insisted he won't be distracted when he plays Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles as the Giants (11-1) try to clinch the NFC East.

"This Sunday is no different from last Sunday," said Pierce, who came into the media room right after practice in a sweat-soaked gray pullover. "It is no different from Week 1. It's no different from the Super Bowl game. It's no different from the first game I ever played football.

"When I get on the football field my focus is winning the game, first and foremost, doing my job and helping my team win," said Pierce, who frequently clutched the podium he was standing behind with his gloved hands. "That's what I plan on doing on Sunday."

Although Pierce did take Burress to New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center as instructed by a Giants trainer, he did not try to cover it up by registering Burress under a false name, Bachner said.

"Other than bringing him to the hospital, he had no involvement in the administration process," Bachner said.

Bachner said he could not comment on a report that Pierce took Burress' gun to his home and later gave it back to Burress' wife, Tiffany. Without identifying names, police said they wanted to speak to anyone with relevant information about the shooting or the events afterward.

Giants spokesman Pat Hanlon acknowledged on Wednesday that Pierce called team trainer Ronnie Barnes after the shooting and that Barnes told Pierce to take the injured player to New York Presbyterian.

Hanlon said Thursday the Giants alerted NFL security about the early Saturday morning shooting at a Manhattan nightclub, saying the team left it to the league to alert police. The NFL said its security department then did contact police.

But police say the NFL was not forthcoming about the shooting.

Police said the NFL called a detective squad in upper Manhattan between 10:30 and 11:30 a.m. — not to report the shooting but to seek information on whether any 911 calls were made in connection with the shooting and whether Burress had been admitted to a hospital.

The highest-ranking member of the police department called was a lieutenant, called at home around 12:20 p.m. Saturday, police said. By then, police were canvassing area hospitals — acting on media reports, not information from the NFL. Burress, however, already had been discharged.

"The information we were provided was rumored reports of the shooting of Plaxico Burress being reported on ESPN and elsewhere, and not information provided by the NFL," said NYPD Deputy Commissioner for Public Information Paul Browne.

The Giants said Wednesday the team trainer sent Burress to New York Presbyterian because he wanted Burress near the Hospital for Special Surgery, which is located next door, in case the injury to his right thigh required any orthopedic work by team physicians.

The team said Mark Drakos, a doctor from the Hospital for Special Surgery who has treated Giants players in the past, examined Burress after he was paged by New York Presbyterian. The team said it was a coincidence that Drakos was on call.

When Barnes arrived at the hospital, he asked to see Burress, by name, and was taken to the room where he was being treated. Barnes later learned Burress had been issued a hospital ID bracelet with an alias, and Hanlon said neither Barnes nor the Giants had any involvement with Burress being admitted under a false name.

While Barnes waited outside the room, an attending physician approached Barnes and said Burress had suffered no vascular injuries. She then returned to the treatment room. The team said Barnes did not know the doctor and was not in the room while she was treating Burress.

Dr. Josyann Abisaab has been suspended for not reporting Burress' gunshot injury, as required by law.

Abisaab, who's affiliated with the hospital and specializes in internal and emergency medicine, could not be reached for comment.

Police still want to interview the people at the hospital who treated Burress and did not report the shooting, as required by law. Burress is believed to have used an alias, but the hospital must report a gunshot wound regardless of whether they know the identification of the person.

Burress has been charged with illegal weapons possession, a felony that requires a mandatory minimum 3 1/2 years and a maximum of 15 years in prison if convicted.

Authorities are trying to determine whether Pierce tried to cover up the shooting. Police say Pierce returned to New Jersey with Burress' gun in the glove compartment of his black Cadillac Escalade. Investigators have impounded the SUV to search it for any blood or gun residue.

Pierce is expected to play Sunday against Philadelphia, with the Giants (11-1) on the verge of clinching the NFC East and gaining a first-round playoff bye.

Even if the team makes the playoffs, Burress won't be a part of it.

The team fined and suspended Burress for four games, the rest of the regular season, Tuesday. The Giants also placed him on the reserve non-football injury list, which means he won't be back for the playoffs.

The NFL Players Association, however, said in a statement that it was reviewing the Giants' actions and planned to file a grievance, saying Burress' collective bargaining rights were violated.

"I had a conversation with Plaxico. He was very humble. He was remorseful," Coughlin said. "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."

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