Umenyiora locked in on the now

January, 6, 2012
1/06/12
10:00
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Sunday will be Osi Umenyiora's first postseason game since the night the New York Giants beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl. And after a long and tumultuous season that began with a contract dispute and has endured more than its share of injuries, Mike Garafolo writes that Umenyiora is just taking it all in:
"Oh, I'm reeeeeally cherishing this opportunity," Umenyiora said yesterday of the buildup to Sunday's NFC Wild Card game against the Atlanta Falcons. "Probably more than everybody."

That was one long "reeeeeally." We wonder what he reeeeeally meant by it.

"Read between the lines, read between the lines," the Giants' defensive end said with a laugh. "I'm really having a good time. I look around, I come in and just smile. I cherish it, man. I cherish it."

There is a looming offseason story between the Giants and Umenyiora, who now has one year left on a contract there is no doubt he hates. Will they trade him? Will they let him go? Will they come to common ground on an extension? Will they keep him and make him play out his final season whether he likes it or not? Will he hold out if they choose that last option? Potential ugliness awaits that could make last summer's issues look downright friendly.

But in the meantime, there can be little doubt that Umenyiora's mind is where he and the Giants need it to be for the short term. After missing four games with an ankle injury, Umenyiora played hurt Sunday and still managed to sack Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo twice in the division-clinching game. When he is on the field, Umenyiora never fails to show why he believes he's worth more money than the Giants pay him. He is an impact player, a speedy, ferocious game-changer whose healthy return to the pass rush could be the main reason the Giants are able to make a deep playoff run, if they are.

Once it's all over, the issues will return. Will Umenyiora be expendable due to the emergence of Jason Pierre-Paul? Will he demand to be dealt? Will the team soften its stance and be willing to at least discuss a new deal? We don't know the answers to any of these questions, and while they're clearly still present in Umenyiora's mind, they seem to have taken a seat in the back of the room, and are keeping quiet for now while more pressing matters get resolved. If you're a Giants fan, that has to make you happy.

Dan Graziano

ESPN New York Giants reporter

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