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Outspoken giant
Burress predicts 6-point N.Y. win

GLENDALE, Ariz. - Plaxico Burress looked through his wraparound shades and pointed to two choice midfield seats at Phoenix Stadium.

'If my mom and her were living now, they would probably be sitting in that first row right there, seats 15 and 16,' the New York Giants' big-play receiver said. 'They would have the best seats in the house.'

And watching his every move, no doubt, in Sunday's Super Bowl against the New England Patriots.

The words from Burress' heart said a lot about the women who shaped his life, particularly his grandmother, Louise Elliott, whom he honored by wearing a special T-shirt under his jersey during games at Michigan State.

'My grandma was sort of a rock,' Burress said. 'Everyone leaned on her. She was a quiet one who walked with swagger though, walked with a swagger. I think my mom got a lot from her. I think I learned from them a quite confidence.'

Throughout his college and pro careers that confidence has crossed the line at times.

Burress has never been afraid to speak his mind, and Tuesday was no exception.

Five days before the biggest game of his career, Burress predicted that the Giants would spoil the Patriots' bid for a perfect season with a 23-17 win.

'It was the first thing that came into my mind,' said Burress, sporting bling galore - a diamond in each ear, a silver cross hanging from his neck and a huge gold watch wrapped around his wrist.

He then downplayed the obvious blackboard material for the Patriots.

'I am going to say it again, the goal is to win the football game,' Burress said. 'It is not to come here and just play. The goal is to come here and win. That's why we are here.'

When pressed, Burress would not back down, noting if the Giants do what is necessary '... we will win the football game.'

Giants coach Tom Coughlin was stunned to hear that one of his players guaranteed a win, a la Joe Namath poolside in 1969.

'That's not the way we have done things all season,' Coughlin said.

But that's Burress' way.

Back in his days at Michigan State, Burress upset then-coach Nick Saban by saying before a game with Michigan that he was so confident of his ability that 'it would be like taking candy from a baby.'

A few weeks later, Saban instituted the so-called 'Burress rule,' allowing only seniors to speak to the media.

In five seasons in Pittsburgh, Burress also rattled some cages and perplexed coach Bill Cowher with his immaturity.

He felt the Steelers relied too much on the running game and didn't throw enough deep passes - to him, of course. He once complained the league allowed Patriots' defensive backs to play by their own set of rules. He also was fined $5,000 by the league for an on-field tantrum in 2002 after being ejected.

Off the field, he was arrested on a charge of drinking in public and criticized for socializing with opposing players.

'We are all humans,' Burress said. 'We all make good and bad choices but it makes you who you are. I am very happy with who I am and that's one of values instilled in me. I'm not perfect, far from a saint. I wouldn't want to be any other person other than Plaxico Burress.'

Teammates say the brashness isn't a constant. They see him as laid back, soft spoken unless he wants to get a point across, funny and most of all, a family man.

'Take his family away from him and he's got nothing,' halfback Brandon Jacobs said.

Those who know him say Burress has changed in recent years, toned it down a bit.

Ken Mannie, Michigan State's strength and conditioning coach, included a letter from Burress in a magazine article he wrote last year.

It said:

'Dear Coach Mannie:

First off, I hope that you and your beautiful family are doing well. Over ten years have passed since I first stepped onto MSU's campus, and I wish I knew then what I know now maybe I wouldn't have been so hard-headed. But thanks to you for always pushing me, even though I thought I knew it all. You will always be one of my favorite people because you always told the truth and never sugarcoated anything.'

It ended with Burress saying he was trying to become the best receiver in the NFL, and thanking the coach for showing him how to work hard.

It was signed: Love, Plax.

'I think the letter he wrote, which is in my scrapbook, says it all about how much he has grown up,' Mannie said in a telephone interview. 'Would he have been able to write that letter 10 years ago? Probably not. But the fact that he can now makes me really proud.'

Mannie said Burress' exterior doesn't tell the whole story.

'His maturity, or lack of it, has led to his struggles at times, but no one can say he's a bad person,' Mannie said.

Burress has been something else for the Giants, too - a great receiver. Their answer to Randy Moss.

Despite being unable to practice most of the season because of a sprained ankle, Burress led the Giants with 70 catches for 1,025 yards and a career-best 12 touchdowns, including two in the 38-35 loss to the Patriots on the last weekend of the season.

He set a franchise record in the NFC title game with a career-best 11 catches in the win over the Packers.

'He doesn't lack for talent,' Patriots linebacker Mike Vrabel said. 'You are talking about a big athlete who can run and when he catches the football he catches it with his hands. He's claiming it. I can appreciate that. He's not a body catcher. When you are big and you're a body catcher you lose the advantage of being big.'

And if Burress can be big against the Patriots, the Giants may pull off one of the biggest upsets of all time.