Bill Cowher was nervous last week when he sat down to talk to Plaxico Burress at an upstate prison. Not because of the venue but because he never before had conducted a formal interview of that sort.
But he did not have much choice, not after CBS had struck out in other attempts to reach out to the former Giants receiver before turning to his former coach with the Steelers.
"I tried to tell (Burress' wife) Tiffany it was an opportunity for him to have people see him and he can send a message, to show remorse if he indeed felt that," Cowher said Wednesday from South Florida.
Burress agreed -- only if Cowher was the questioner for the piece, which will air on CBS' Super Bowl XLIV pregame show on Sunday.
So, how did it go?
"I knew him from drafting him and all the things he's gone through, he's still not a bad person at heart," said Cowher, who called the interview a "delicate balance" between being candid and sensitive.
"I think you will see he blames no one but himself and is very genuine in his feeling. I thought he spoke direct from his heart.
"He looked me in the eye more than he did in my five years of conversations with him in Pittsburgh. I didn't have a bad relationship with him. He was a guy who kind of walked the line and wouldn't cross it. But he'd get real close to it."
In excerpts provided by CBS, Burress says he wrote a letter to Giants executives John Mara and Steve Tisch apologizing for "bringing all this bad publicity to such a stand-up organization."
Burress also says he works out four days a week. "It's not LA Fitness or Bally's but I do push-ups, sit-ups, I make do," he says.
He also vows, "I will play again."
Burress, 32, won't be released until the spring of 2011. Can he can play effectively after two years off?
"He's not a guy who relied on his speed; he's a guy with great size," Cowher said. "He's had some time to recover physically. He looked good. I think he feels fresh. Given the right situation, I don't think there's any reason he can't come back to play a couple of years."
Speaking of long layoffs, what about Cowher? He has indicated he is ready to return to coaching, but he has been gone for three full seasons.
"I think the biggest thing is I've been able to stay involved with it," he said. "The thing I'm doing now has allowed me to keep up, in some ways maybe more so than just coaching my own team."
(Still, Cowher said Sunday will be the first time since his playing debut in 1979 that he will attend an NFL game as something other than a player or coach.)
"I'm not going to make a decision based on time," he said. "It will be based on the right situation . . . I don't regret walking away. I spent quality time with my kids, but they are all out of the house now. So I'm going to sit back and do this (TV work) and see what happens."
Jerome Bettis created a huge stir last month when he said on Sirius XM radio the Giants job is the one Cowher covets and is "holding out for."
Cowher countered by saying he has not spoken to his former back in two years and that "people need to understand I'm not sending a message through Jerome . . . It's not him having inside information."
He stressed his "tremendous respect for Tom Coughlin" but knows non-winning seasons inevitably lead to speculation about openings, which inevitably leads to him.
"My name is going to get thrown out there," he said. "I can't control that."