- Ohm Youngmisuk, ESPN Staff Writer
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Osi Umenyiora had his moments with Giants GM Jerry Reese over the years over the defensive end's contract.
But during his introductory news conference in Atlanta, Umenyiora credited Reese with an assist for his signing with the Falcons.
"Me and Jerry are cool," Umenyiora said Thursday. "We have always been cool. Jerry is my guy. Obviously, if it wasn't for him, I probably wouldn't even be here now because obviously the team did a comprehensive amount of research on me and my background, because of the things that were reported.
"They wanted to know what kind of person I was," he continued. "Obviously, they had to talk to Jerry Reese, as well as my coach. They had nothing but positive things to say."
Umenyiora and Reese have certainly had rocky moments in their relationship. During the 2011 offseason, the defensive end said in an affidavit as part of the players' antitrust case against the NFL that Reese made a promise to him to renegotiate his contract or trade him. The statement was part of the legal argument that the lockout was causing irreparable harm to players like Umenyiora.
But Umenyiora and Reese eventually got over the riff and the Giants won another Super Bowl. This winter, Umenyiora finally hit his long-awaited free agency and agreed to a two-year deal with the Falcons for $8.5 million with a max value of $12 million, including $5 million guaranteed.
It may not be the monster payday he was hoping for, but Umenyiora says he could not have landed in a better spot.
"This team is the most talented team that I have seen in my life, probably," said Umenyiora, who lives in Atlanta in the offseason.
Umenyiora is looking forward to showing what he can do again as a full-time starter and he believes playing indoors provides "ideal [conditions] for a player like myself."
The defensive end was asked about how being a part of a pass-rush rotation in New York impacted him statistically and emotionally. Umenyiora had a total of 15 sacks the past two seasons after having 11.5 sacks and 10 forced fumbles as a full-time starter in 2010.
"They have some very good football players there with Jason [Pierre-Paul] and Justin Tuck being who he is," he said. "Obviously, I wasn't able to play as much as I would have liked. There is just no way you can put all of us on the field at the same time. If you look at it statistically, yes that definitely played a role. You are only going to be able to produce as much as you are out there on the football field. And I wasn't on the field as much as I have been accustomed to."
"To say that it is ideal for me, it wasn't," Umenyiora later admitted of rotating in. "Obviously, I am a guy of tremendous pride and I would have liked to have been on the football field more, but I understood the situation."
Umenyiora did say that not being a full-time starter the past couple of seasons has kept his body fresh.
Now he is looking forward to starting over fresh in Atlanta. But before being introduced as a Falcon, he called Reese.
"I talked to Jerry yesterday," Umenyiora said. "We had a great conversation and I look forward to continuing my relationship with him whenever football is over."