Justin Tuck knows he didn't perform up to expectations -- his or anyone else's -- in the two seasons that preceded this one. He got hot and helped the New York Giants win a Super Bowl at the tail end of that 2011 season, and yes that forgives a lot, but he had just five sacks in the regular season that year and only four in 2012. These are not the numbers of one of the league's most fearsome pass-rushers.
This year, thanks to the four sacks he collected in Sunday night's victory over the Redskins, Tuck is up to 6.5 sacks with four games to go. And even prior to the big night Sunday, he was playing well overall -- better than he had been in 2011 or 2012. He does not hesitate when he is asked why.
"I'm healthy," Tuck said Monday. "I was able to train completely this offseason, and that's pretty much it. Everyone knows my struggles to get healthy the previous two years and how that affected me on the football field. But this year, I stayed out of the training room and started eating the right things and started doing the right things, and I've managed to stay healthy this year. That's the biggest difference."
Tuck missed four games in 2011 and one last year due to injury. He has struggled with a neck problem, among other things, in recent seasons, and even when he was on the field his physical problems limited him. But Tuck hasn't appeared on an injury report this year, and his timing is excellent. As you may have heard, his contract is up at the end of this season. It's unclear whether the Giants will be able to afford to bring him back, but his ability to remain healthy and be productive this season may have altered their perspective in a way that makes it more likely than it once was.