Osi Focused On Patriots Not Contract
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 the season.
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 Giants roster.
Kisha Tapangan is contributing writer for Patriots Insider.com. She also manages the blog Necessary Roughness with Kisha. She can also be found on twitter @KishaT. Feel free to email her your thoughts here.
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