Mature Plax Sets Great Example for Ross

Getty Images/Nick Laham

They were suddenly joined at the hip, a receiver and a cornerback, two marvelous athletes making plays and breaking rules. Only Plaxico Burress hadn't skirted Tom Coughlin's rules since the 2005 season. Ross, of course, managed to break a Coughlin decree by the fifth game of the corner's career.

But then, Ross has been ahead of schedule since the day he arrived at training camp. He's given the Giants that rare corner who can glue himself to speedy receivers and come up with the football when it's in his vicinity. Making plays on the other side of the ball is Burress, off to the best start of his career despite a gimpy right ankle.

Ross and Burress.

Burress and Ross.

Ross promises his first mistake will be his last, and we will see. He has a long career ahead of him to be making such bold claims, but he seems like a good kid. Burress, 30, five years Ross' senior, seems to have taken a more businesslike approach than at any time in his two-plus seasons with the Giants.

There have been several times this season when last year's version of Burress would have raised his arms in frustration over not getting the ball. But Burress has been much better behaved this season, even while hobbling on a bad ankle from day one, and has constantly pledged his support for Eli Manning.

Burress also has been spectacular. He has been good for a big play every game through the first month. He's in that kind of groove where you're constantly expecting him to do something extraordinary. Burress has been especially effective on catch-and-runs, using his agility, quickness and speed (oh, and an occasional stiff-arm) to turn short gains into long ones.

Jeremy Shockey and Amani Toomer had been nothing better than OK through five games. But Burress is having a career year despite missing a bunch of practices and, leery of re-injury, going half-speed early in games.

Burress also seems to be more professional than ever. Coughlin has mentioned on several occasions Burress' hands-on approach to missing practice time. He's paid special attention to dissecting practices and film study, and taken extra time schooling younger receivers on the nuances of the game.

Another thing that jumped out was Burress' response to Greg Gadson, the Army lieutenant colonel who lost both legs during combat in Iraq, speaking to the Giants before the Redskins game. Afterward, according to reports, Burress and Gadson were seen talking at length near his locker. When Burress scored the Giants' go-ahead touchdown, he recovered his spiked ball, sprinted to the sideline and handed Gadson the ball.

Ross has played in only six official NFL games, so as Bill Parcells liked to say, "Let's not put him in Canton yet." But Ross is going to be a Pro Bowl cornerback, and sooner rather than later.

I'm guessing within three years.

Ross thrives in press coverage. He can stay with most anyone and he has hands of a receiver, a far cry from past Giant corners (the Wills come to mind) who had hands of a bricklayer.

Ross' early struggles were mostly a product of playing nickel back for the first time in his football career. But he followed up a terrific game against Philadelphia with a chest-thumping performance in two quarters against the Jets.

It would have been four quarters, of course, had Ross chosen to follow each and every one of Coughlin's rules. Coughlin responded by telling Ross to warm up the bench for the first half.

Ross' undisclosed infraction was relatively minor, or he would have kept that bench warm for all four quarters. And Ross, an engaging fella, doesn't come across as a guy who plays by his own rules. He was genuinely contrite after destroying the Jets, saying, "It was a silly mistake on my behalf. It won't happen again."

And you get the feeling that it really might not.

But if it does, Ross must sit an entire game.

That reminds me of a side note. There was a body of people, as there were two years ago when Burress sat a quarter against San Diego for a similar infraction, who think such penalties are counterproductive and unnecessary. You know, all these disciplinary measures do is hurt the team.

Hogwash.

Earth to people: That's exactly why Coughlin should pass down such penalties with 100 percent consistency. Football's a team sport, and if one of the members of the team breaks a rule, it's up to the team to pick up the slack and make sure the player doesn't do it again. Two lockers from Ross', Sam Madison sounded like he was less than thrilled with Ross for breaking the rule. Madison made it clear that Ross can be a great player, but that he has to be where he's supposed to be, when he's supposed to be there.

Taking away playing time is the coach's only effective recourse. Fines are pocket change but playing time is the pro player's valuable jewel.

We can only hope that it takes Ross less time than Burress to learn football lessons. But right now they are a deadly combo, a receiver and a cornerback, two marvelous athletes making plays and busting up the opposition.

Corey who?

On a related topic, Ross' surge is liable to make Corey Webster about as visible as a mafia turncoat in the Witness Protection Program. Perhaps Webster can use the extra time learning how to tackle, a craft he hasn't quite mastered yet.

Maybe Webster's a late bloomer, and maybe all those scouts who made him a second-round pick had perfectly justified reasons for doing so. It's just that we haven't seen it since Webster pulled on a Giants uniform. Hopefully Ross can provide the proper push and the Giants will finally have some depth in the secondary.

Kevin Gleason covers the Giants for the Times Herald-Record in Middletown, N.Y.

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