More than 30 months removed from his last reception, Burress is looking to pick up where he left off. In his last two full seasons, he averaged more than 1,000 yards receiving and scored 22 touchdowns.
Restarting his career, let alone playing at a high level, will be far from easy. Two months shy of 34, Burress is not only at a point when receivers' careers generally spiral downward, but he also is facing the struggles that come with a two-year layoff in nearly any sport.
Coming back from a non-injury layoff is not a new problem. And the reasons for the absence are not always as unsavory. Hall of Fame baseball players missed time because of
"The major concern is that although
"It's as surprising to me as it is to everybody else," Vick said midway through his revival season. "But at the end of the day, I knew I had the talent and what it took to win football games. I just needed an opportunity."
Nonetheless, contact sports such as football present the most difficulty in regaining previous form.
"You can lift weights, you can train aerobically, you can do all sorts of things," said Robert Landel, a professor of clinical
In boxing, Ali proves Landel's point. Ali faced a ban from boxing for nearly three years because of his opposition to the
In contrast, Landel sees baseball as one of the easier sports to return to after a layoff.
"The one thing you can't do is stand in a batter's box facing a
Jordan's return to basketball suggests otherwise. In the three full seasons after his return, Jordan and the
"There was an adjustment for him, and an adjustment for the team," said George Mumford, who was working as the Bulls' team psychologist at the time. "Even though (Jordan's) really good, when you stay away from the game that long, you aren't going to have the efficiency or the effectiveness you had when you left."
Jordan shot a career-low 41.1 percent from the field in the final 17 games of the 1995 season.
"He didn't look like the old Michael Jordan,"
Baseball, the sport Jordan tried in lieu of basketball, has a long history of lost seasons. Hundreds of players missed time during World War II and the
Hall of Famer
Burress, though, is looking at an uphill climb thanks to his age. The last time a receiver 34 or older finished in the top 10 in receptions was 2007, when
Woods returned to golf at 33, after an eight-month layoff due to knee surgery and then his turn in the supermarket tabloids. Woods has since played far below the level both he and his fans expect.
In the end, the success — or lack thereof — of Burress' return will probably come down to his own mindset.
"You really can't (generalize it)," Mumford said. "Everybody is different and responds to stressful situations differently."