- The Washington Times - Monday, December 1, 2008

The New York Giants came into Sunday’s game against the Washington Redskins at damp, dreary FedEx Field needing a victory to tie Tennessee for the best record in the league.

So what’s a little distraction, such as Plaxico Burress, the team’s best receiver, accidentally shooting himself less than 48 hours before the game? The Giants ignored all the buzz about that and methodically beat the Redskins 23-7 to extend their record to a franchise-best 11-1 and move one game closer to clinching the NFC East and home-field advantage in the playoffs.

“This football team wants to be elite,” defensive end Justin Tuck said after the reigning Super Bowl champions won their seventh straight game and 15th of their past 16 on the road, including last year’s playoffs. “Our motto is: Never be satisfied with anything.”

“We want to be the first football team to play the first perfect game,” he said, acknowledging the impossibility of such a feat.

Burress, who had been ruled out of the game because of a hamstring injury, accidentally shot himself in the right thigh late Friday at a Manhattan club. He was hospitalized but was not seriously wounded.

Burress does face legal problems. He reportedly does not have a permit to carry a concealed weapon, which is a felony. According to published reports, Burress will turn himself in Monday and plead not guilty. He also might be suspended under the NFL’s conduct policy.

“The only thing the players were concerned about was Plaxico’s health,” said Manning, who completed 21 of 34 passes for 305 yards and a 40-yard touchdown pass to Amani Toomer. “[Coach Tom Coughlin] said it wasn’t life-threatening, but anytime you hear about a gunshot wound, you’re concerned about it. That was people’s concern - how fast he was going to recover. … Game plan-wise and what we had to do on the field, we didn’t let it bother us.”

With the Redskins intent on stopping Brandon Jacobs, the Giants’ bruising running back, Manning spread the ball around. But even though the Giants’ defense contained quarterback Jason Campbell and stuffed Clinton Portis, the first three questions middle linebacker Antonio Pierce fielded after the game concerned the shooting because he was with Burress at the time.

It had been reported that Pierce, a former Redskins player, tried to hide the gun and could face obstruction of justice charges. Reports later said Pierce is cooperating with police.

“I’m gonna say this once, and it’s the last time,” he said. “I am not answering any questions about the incident that happened Friday night. If you have anything to say about the Washington Redskins and this game and moving forward, I’ll answer. Anything else I’m not answering.”

On the distraction issue, he said: “Come Sunday, one o’clock, when the whistles blow and you’re in between those lines and you’re in the stadium, that’s the only focus you’ve got. And that’s the only thing that this team ever does … focus on our opponent and the challenges ahead.”

Before the game, Giants co-owner John Mara expressed concern about the gun culture in professional sports.

“A lot of players, for whatever reason, feel the need to carry guns with them,” he said. “It’s not something we’re particularly pleased about, but it’s the choice that they make. You like to think that most of them are licensed to do that, but I’m not sure that’s always the case. The league has programs and the team has programs every year where you try to educate players about that, but ultimately they have to make their own choices.”

The NFL code of conduct urges players not to possess guns and notes that if they do, they must understand and follow applicable laws. The code calls for disciplinary action - including suspension - for players who violate the policy.

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