The Giants held their third round of organized team activities (OTAs) on yesterday, but with a slightly different feel, as a familiar face was in attendance.
Fresh off signing a restructured one-year deal, mercurial defensive end Osi Umenyiora was back to work. Umenyiora, who was embroiled in a bitter contract dispute with general manager Jerry Reese for the past two offseasons, finally got what he wanted — more money. Umenyiora was set to earn somewhere in the neighborhood of $4 million this upcoming season but with the new raise, his salary will be upwards of $7.5 million.
“I’m just happy, man, that that’s over with. It was time to get back to work,” said Umenyiora, who spent his time away from the team working out on his own in Atlanta. “It was definitely frustrating, but I’m just happy to be back. … There are no hard feelings.”
Umenyiora reiterated how happy he was when respected teammates like Justin Tuck and Mathias Kiwanuka publicly backed him and said they wanted and needed him back.
“Those guys really stepped up for me. I really appreciate it and I’m happy to be here with them,” Umenyiora said.
Kiwanuka’s support was especially warming to Umenyiora after the defensive end seemingly took a shot at Kiwanuka for the multi-year deal the Giants gave him. Umenyiora was supposedly upset that the team decided to “take care” or Kiwanuka first despite the defensive end/strongside linebacker coming off a debilitating neck injury, while Umenyiora had already established himself as one of the league’s premiere pass rushers.
Kiwanuka brushed aside any remarks, saying, “Me and Osi are fine. We’re men and are close. If I had a problem with what he said I’d have addressed that man to man.”
The 10-year veteran said he’s happy he can play with a clear head. He
admitted the bad press accumulated over the past two offseason spats
left him weary.
“It really was affecting me in a bad way, because I didn’t like all the negativity that was surrounding the whole situation,” Umenyiora said. “I couldn’t stand it, because if you know me, you know I’m not that type of person. … I’m just happy all that is over with. I’ll play out this contract. I’ll play this year and I’ll play my heart out.”
He’ll likely play his heart out as a situational rusher, as he’s currently working with the second team, backing up Jason Pierre-Paul and Justin Tuck at end. How he handles the backup spot full-time remains to be seen, but as of right now Umenyiora said there’s no worry and there won’t be any insubordinate behavior.
“Really if it was anybody but JPP (Pierre-Paul) and Tuck then it would matter,” he said. “But those are my brothers, man. If they’re starting, I don’t care. I’ll back those guys up happily.”
Umenyiora then added that all three will be on the field in nickel situations, as defensive coordinator Perry Fewell utilized this package to great success last season — dubbing it the “NASCAR” unit due to their speedy pass rush.
Big Blue notes
»Umenyiora said he doesn’t blame the Giants for playing hard ball with his contract since he knows Reese will eventually have to re-sign fellow defensive ends Tuck and Pierre-Paul: “You’re going to hamstring your franchise, so I would make the exact same decisions if I was them, no question.”
» Umenyiora fired his longtime agent, Tony Agnone, right before he signed the restructured deal because Agnone “wouldn’t sign off on it.” Umenyiora allowed that the Giants did offer him a multi-year deal, but he preferred a one-year deal so he could become a free agent after the season. Umenyiora also acknowledged that he plans to re-hire Agnone: “My agent is a great agent. In future negotiations, he is definitely going to represent me.”
» Umenyiora is entering his 10th season. He was selected to the Pro Bowl in 2005 and 2007. He has 69 career regular-season sacks, which is fourth on the Giants’ official career list, and just 10.5 sacks behind No. 3 Leonard Marshall.
Umenyiora was the Giants’ sole or shared leader in sacks in six of seven seasons, missing only 2008, when he did not play a game after undergoing knee surgery. He was the team’s sack leader in four consecutive seasons (2004-07). He was the first Giant to top the team in sacks four years in a row since Lawrence Taylor led the team from 1986-90.
» Umenyiora has mastered the art of the strip-sack, as he’s also forced 30 fumbles and recovered 13 of them. He is also the only player in Giants history with three touchdowns on fumble returns.
» Umenyiora played in nine regular-season games (seven starts) and appeared in four postseason games (no starts) last year, during the Giants’ Super Bowl run. He missed the first three games last season after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery on Aug. 19. He also missed all four December games with an ankle injury suffered at New Orleans on Nov. 28. Despite those absences, he finished second on the team with 9.0 sacks, was credited with 25 tackles (16 solo), and two forced fumbles. During the playoffs he had 3.5 sacks, nine tackles and a forced fumble.
» When asked about his future, Umenyiora said “I still want to play.” He then added he believes he has “two years” remaining before he’s relegated to solely being a situational pass rusher.
Follow Giants beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8 for all your offseason news and notes.