- Dan Graziano, ESPN Staff Writer
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I never really bought into the late-season idea that Justin Tuck could be a New York Giants cap casualty. I know he was disappointing in 2012, and actually for most of 2011 as well. But especially with Osi Umenyiora almost certain to be gone, I think the Giants have too much in the bank with Tuck to cut him loose and rebuild their entire pass rush around Jason Pierre-Paul. It is my belief that Tuck will be a Giant in 2013.
So if that's the case, per the Giants' web site, what's Tuck planning to do to get ready for it?
"Just work my butt off to become Justin Tuck of old. Do whatever I can do as a leader in a leadership role to prepare this team for a championship run next year. And get some rest and just come back knowing that regardless of what happened this year, we still have a very quality football team that could put it all together again next year and have an epic 2013."
A noble goal, to once again become the Justin Tuck of old. That was some kind of special player. And the extent to which the Justin Tuck of the present kind of fades in and out in terms of interest and intensity is one of the maddening mysteries that surround the Giants these days.
But I don't think a return to being the Justin Tuck of old should be Tuck's 2013 goal. He'll turn 30 in March, and while that's not old and I don't believe by any stretch that he's done as an effective player, the great players are very often the ones that identify the things about their games that need to change as they age. Tuck probably can't expect himself to be the player he was when he was 26, and if he is expecting that and it's a cause of his somewhat persistent melancholy, then it's possible a recalibration of expectations is in order. Tuck has shown a tendency to get down about things not going his way, either health-wise or otherwise, in recent seasons, and he may be struggling to come to grips with the fact that normal NFL wear and tear requires him to prepare, work out and even play differently than he could when he was younger. He would certainly not be the first player to endure such an internal trial.
The Giants as a whole can get very comfortable in their rut, and their belief that if they stay the course everything will work out. The idea that this past season was some sort of flop fairly ignores the fact that they finished it with the same 9-7 regular-season record they had the year before and that, this time, that wasn't good enough to qualify them for the playoffs and a Super Bowl run. I wonder if it would be better for Tuck and the Giants to think less about what they used to be and start to think a little bit more about the changes they need to make to be what they have the potential to be going forward.