Osi Umenyiora's contract issue not new for Giants
By Kisha Tapangan
This Sunday, New York Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora will play in
his second Super Bowl against the New England Patriots. It could also
be the last game he'll ever play in a Giants uniform.
In 2007, Umenyiora was part of one of the the most dynamic defensive
end tandems in the league. Umenyiora and teammate Michael Strahan
finished the season with a combined 26 sacks. They were the first
defensive end tandem to make it to the Pro Bowl since former Miami Dolphins teammates Jason Taylor and Trace Armstrong did it in 2000.
But this isn't the only thing that Strahan and Umenyiora share.
Both players were having stellar seasons in the final year of their
respective contracts, and eerily enough, the final year was also topped
with a trip to the Super Bowl. Both players shared the field with
fellow defensive end Justin Tuck. That's where the similarities end...
for now. Strahan ended his football career on a high note by defeating
the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII and subsequently retiring in 2008. How
Umenyiora's season will end is still unclear.
With a season that started with contract issues and a desire to be
traded, it is hard to imagine that the two-time Pro Bowler would be in
Indianapolis preparing for Super Bowl XLVI. Umenyiora's decision to put
contract discussions on hold until the end of the season might have
been the best thing to happen for the Giants this season.
When asked if his ego had to be put aside in terms of contract
discussions, Umenyiora confessed, "Of course. I had to do that. I had
to swallow my pride. I had to do a bunch of different things. You have
to sacrifice for the team. That's just what I've been able to do this
year, and we've been successful."
It's been a bumpy ride to the Super Bowl for Umenyiora, between holding
out in the beginning of training camp to missing seven games due to
arthroscopic knee surgery in August and a high ankle sprain later on in
Even with setbacks, Umenyiora still managed nine sacks in the regular
season and 3.5 in the playoffs and has the Patriots offensive line
preparing for his pass rush. New England‘s main focus will be trying to
prevent Umenyiora and company from getting pressure on quarterback Tom Brady or disrupting the offense before it hits its stride.
The contract conversation will come up win or lose after Sunday and
it's becoming clear that Giants might not be willing to pay to keep
number 72 on the roster.
The emergence of 2010 draft pick Jason Pierre-Paul (JPP) is hard to
ignore. The defensive end has 72 tackles, 16.5 sacks and one safety in
the 2011 season.
Umenyiora is well-aware of Pierre-Paul's breakout year. "He started
raw, but he had a lot of talent," Umenyiora said of JPP. "He still has
the same thing and he's playing very, very well. Hopefully, that will
continue for the Giants."
JPP has replaced Umenyiora on as a starter on the roster.
But is money really the issue or is it about the principal of a promise
of a better contract for Umenyiora that was made in 2008 if he could
perform at a high level for two years?
It's becoming clear that it might be the latter.
Umenyiora was asked if the thought of his contract dispute even came to
mind while at Indianapolis. "I don't think so," he explained. "I think
that was the beginning of the playoffs. Now, I'm just enjoying this
run. I‘m enjoying my teammates. I'm happy to be here. I'm happy to be
playing football. That's just the end of it. I'm not really thinking of
that contract stuff or anything."
It would've been easy for Umenyiora to make the season about his
contract but instead, he's made it about the team and that decision may
be the most convincing argument for keeping the defensive end on the
Kisha Tapangan is contributing writer for Patriots
also manages the blog Necessary Roughness with Kisha.
She can also be found on twitter @KishaT.
Feel free to email her your thoughts here.