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Thursday, February 9, 2012
Tuck is hoping for Umenyiora's return

By Christopher Hunt

NEW YORK -- Justin Tuck knows that he probably won't sleep much over the next week or so in the aftermath of the Giants' Super Bowl victory.

Tuck said, after serving a few sandwiches as part of Subway's Footlong Nation Mobile Tour at a Fifth Avenue store on Thursday, that once the festivities are over, he can finally rest his ailing body and give it at least a month before even thinking about football again.

What he does not know, however, is if his friend and teammate Osi Umenyiora will be back with Big Blue for next season's run at back-to-back championships.

"I would hope so, obviously," Tuck said. "We had seven great years together being kind of that 1-2 punch on the line. We had [Michael] Strahan early in our careers and JPP [Jason Pierre-Paul] now. It's fun to play with that guy, man. I'm hoping that he can come back but, more than that, I'm hoping that he can do what's best for him and his family."

Umenyiora started the 2011 season wanting either a new contract or a trade. As the season progressed, the 30-year-old defensive end, with one year and $4 million remaining on his contract, was pushed to the bench. He was also required to play both sides of the defensive line because Pierre-Paul had a breakout season playing on the right side, where Umenyiora would normally play.

Umenyiora missed the first three games of the regular season with a knee injury. He missed another four with an ankle injury. But Umenyiora was dominant when he did play. He recorded 12 sacks in 11 games, including two on Tony Romo to clinch the NFC East. He recorded another two on Aaron Rodgers when the G-Men beat Green Bay in the second round of the playoffs.

"I know he loves New York City and I know he loves the fans and this organization," Tuck said. "He did his part. He came out and had a brilliant year. [Giants general manager] Jerry Reese is a brilliant guy when it comes to things like that. He knows how to put together a team and he knows what's best and until that happens we're all just taking a shot in the dark."

Tuck doesn't have to deal the pressure of free agency or contract negotiations like Umenyiora or Mario Manningham do, but he will have to worry about his body.

Asked about the numerous injuries he battled throughout the season to his neck, shoulder, toe and groin, Tuck said, "You can add a couple more to the list if you want."

Distracted by a ticker-tape parade and public appearances, Tuck hasn't yet had time to assess the status of his health. He said he would know by next week whether he will need offseason surgery on his ailing shoulder. Tuck said he played with more pain this season than at any point in his career.

"It was rough man," he said. "But I think our trainers did an excellent job of getting me ready for Sunday. That’s all I asked for. Football is a contact sport. You’re going to get some bumps and bruises and some hurts here and there, but I think mentally, I was in a good space those last couple games this year and that allowed me to just go out there and focus on helping my team."