Plaxico Burress returns to NFL with Steelers

Plaxico Burress is back in Steelers black. After injuries to Antonio Brown and Jerricho Cotchery,...

Plaxico Burress is back in Steelers black. After injuries to Antonio Brown and Jerricho Cotchery, Pittsburgh signed the free agent Tuesday. (JASON COHN/Reuters file photo)

JOHN KRYK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:58 PM ET

Eight years later, Plaxico Burress is back in Pittsburgh.

The Steelers signed the 6-foot-5 wide receiver Tuesday, no doubt to help fill the void, if only temporarily, after injuries to Antonio Brown and Jerricho Cotchery. Burress had been desperately trying to latch on with any NFL team since the New York Jets let him go after last season.

Burress, 35, played the first five years of his career (2000-04) in Pittsburgh before jumping to the New York Giants from 2005-08.

The latter tenure ended infamously, with his arrest and subsequent two-year imprisonment for illegal handgun possession after he accidentally shot himself with a Glock.

After his release from jail, Burress returned to the NFL last year with the Jets, starting 13 of 16 games. He caught 45 passes for 612 yards and eight touchdowns.

The Steelers also announced the signing of Brian Hoyer as backup quarterback, with Charlie Batch expected to start Sunday in Cleveland. Both Ben Roethlisberger and Byron Leftwich are sidelined with rib and shoulder injuries.

Hoyer was a backup to Tom Brady in New England for three years before his release in August.

REED WINS APPEAL, SUSPENSION TURNS TO FINE

A few hours after teammate Torrey Smith tweeted #FreeEdReed, he was.

On Monday, the NFL suspended Baltimore Ravens safety Ed Reed for one game without pay, for "repeated violations of the rule prohibiting hits to the head and neck area of defenceless players."

Reed immediately appealed, and on Tuesday he won it.

Ted Cottrell, the hearing officer jointly appointed and compensated by the league and the NFL Players Association, reduced the discipline to a $50,000 fine.

Cottrell sent Reed the following explanation: "I have determined that your actions were egregious and warrant significant discipline. However, I do not believe that your actions were so egregious as to subject you to a one-game suspension without pay.

"Player safety is the league's primary concern in the formation of playing rules and all players are expected to adhere to those rules or face disciplinary action. I hope in the future you will focus on ensuring that your play conforms to the rules."

The NFL's vice president of football operations, Merton Hanks, handed out the original discipline after Reed slammed helmet-to-helmet into Pittsburgh wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders Sunday night. A helmet-to-helmet hit on a defenceless player is against the rules. Sunday's was Reed's third such violation in three seasons.

Cottrell held his hearing by teleconference Tuesday morning.

Numerous NFLers tweeted their support of Reed, even rival safety Ryan Clark of the Steelers: "Tough on Ed getting suspended. I can't say that I agree w that. It was a penalty but I don't believe he was intentionally trying to harm E."

That's what Reed's head coach and GM said, too.

"We all know Ed," Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said earlier. "Ed respects the game. He respects his fellow players."

Said Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome: "I think John and his coaches do an excellent job of teaching the right, safe and legal way to play football, and we believe Ed clearly tries to play within the rules on every down."

CUTLER VOWS TO RETURN ... THIS YEAR

The bad news for the Chicago Bears? They can't move the ball without quarterback Jay Cutler.

The even scarier news for the Bears? Cutler's concussion is serious enough that he told the local ESPN sports-radio station he "will play again this year. No doubt about that."

This year?!

Guess no one should hold his breath that Cutler will suit up Sunday for the 7-3 Bears against NFC North rival Minnesota (6-4).

Yet even when he's home convalescing, Cutler evidently can't resist taking a shot at his teammates and/or offensive coordinator Mike Tice.

Asked about the awful performance of his backup, Jason Campbell, in Chicago's embarrassing 32-7 loss in San Francisco on Monday night, Cutler said, "I felt bad for the guy. It's a hard situation to be in. He's expected to perform at a high level. But I don't think (the offence) gave him a fair shot."

Zing.

Meantime, 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh said he tends "to go with the guy that has the hot hand," in reference to which quarterback he'd start Sunday against New Orleans -- regular starter Alex Smith (if recovered from his concussion) or Colin Kaepernick, who was impressive against the Bears.

"Everything (Kaepernick) did was exemplary and (he) really acquitted himself great - very proud of him for that," Harbaugh said.

BRING IT, J.J.

Detroit Lions centre Dominic Raiola isn't exactly quivering at the prospect of facing Houston defensive end J.J. Watt, arguably the league's best defender through 10 games.

Detroit plays host to Houston Thursday afternoon, the first of three U.S. Thanksgiving Day games.

"You know, whatever. Bring it. Just bring it," Raiola told MLive.com about the prospect of facing Watt. "We play top D-tackles every week, so J.J. Watt, bring it."

Informed of the quote on a conference call with Detroit reporters, Watt said: "Just watch the game and find out."

EXTRA POINTS

The Oakland Raiders released outside linebacker Aaron Curry, whom they acquired a year ago in a trade with Seattle for two draft picks "¦ New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan said it's "absolutely ridiculous" that his New England counterpart, Bill Belichick, is taking heat for having Rob Gronkowski in to block on a meaningless extra point at the end of the Pats' 59-24 win over Indianapolis. Gronkowski broke his left arm on the play. "That's just a freak deal," Ryan said.


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