- Kieran Darcy, ESPNNewYork.com
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Umenyiora spent his first 10 years in the NFL here, before signing with the Atlanta Falcons in the spring of 2013. On a conference call with New York reporters Wednesday, he was asked if a part of him wishes he was still here.
"Um, that’s a question I can’t really answer," Umenyiora said. "I did what was best for me, and the Giants did what’s best for them. That’s pretty much the only way I can answer that."
Umenyiora had 75 sacks in nine seasons with the Giants (he missed 2008 due to injury), the fourth most in Giants history. He posted 7.5 sacks in his first season with the Falcons, but has been relegated to a third-down pass-rush specialist role this year.
"Do I feel like I can be helping more? Yes, but I don’t have any control of that," Umenyiora said. "So whatever they ask me to do, I’m gonna go out there and do."
Umenyiora doesn't have a sack in 2014, but the Falcons only have three as a team -- tied for the second-worst total in the entire league. Atlanta's defense has been bad in general -- ranked 30th against the pass (276.3 yards per game) and 28th against the run (153.5).
"When you don’t stop the run it limits your opportunities to rush the passer," Falcons coach Mike Smith said. "Osi has been playing a role as a pass-rusher in our defense this season, [and] we haven’t given him enough swings and enough at-bats to really have an opportunity to affect the game."
Earlier Wednesday, Giants coach Tom Coughlin was asked how Umenyiora looks on film.
"Like Osi," Coughlin said, smiling. "Very, very close on a lot of backdoor plays, which he’s very, very good at. Quick, very fast."
Umenyiora was a big part of two Super Bowl-winning teams during his time in New York, but he was also the center of controversy at times because of contract disputes, including a training camp holdout in 2011.
"I dislike some of the things that I did. But I was young, and as you get older you see some of those things -- you’re like, 'Man, why did I do that? That makes no sense,'" Umenyiora said. "But I have absolutely zero regrets. I left New York in a great relationship with everybody, from the owners, to the GM, to the coaches, to the players -- I still have a really good relationship with everybody there.
"I’m not looking back or looking to this game as, 'Oh, I’m comin' to get revenge on them,' because it wasn’t even like that when I left. I’m just happy to be coming back and seeing some familiar faces."
Umenyiora spoke glowingly about several Giants -- lauding fellow defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul for his practice habits and improved technique, left tackle Will Beatty for his maturity, and running back Rashad Jennings for being very difficult to tackle.
As for quarterback Eli Manning, "Well, he’s throwing the ball really fast, I see that," Umenyiora said. "He’s getting it out of his hands in less than two seconds, it’s really amazing. And it seems like he has full command of that new offense they’re running down there. They look like a very good team."
Umenyiora was once a big part of this team. Could he be a part of it again? His contract with the Falcons expires at the end of this season. Umenyiora is only 32 (he'll turn 33 next month), and said he wants to play "as long as possible."
"You always want to go out playing well, and if it turns out that I am not playing well or I am not doing well, then obviously I am going to shut it down," he said. "If am still able to perform at a high level, the way I think I can, I am going to keep playing."
The Giants may be in the market for a defensive end next spring, especially if they do not re-sign Pierre-Paul, who will be a free agent.
"I can’t even think that far ahead, man," Umenyiora said. "All I can think about right now is this next game that we are playing on Sunday, and whatever happens after the season happens."
Umenyiora will be trying to chase down the quarterback as usual on Sunday -- on third downs, at least. But it sounds like he won't particularly enjoy it.
"Eli’s my brother, man," Umenyiora said. "I’m not necessarily looking forward to it, I’m really not. I just gotta approach it like every other game. I have a lot of love for pretty much everybody over there, so I’m not looking forward to going out there and just destroying my former team the way most people would think. I have a job to do, and I have to go out there and execute."
Ex-New York Giants star Osi Umenyiora has been relegated to being a third-down pass-rusher this season for the Atlanta Falcons.