- Ohm Youngmisuk, ESPN Staff Writer
- 0 Shares
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- On the day that Osi Umenyiora practiced with the New York Giants for the first time this camp, teammate Justin Tuck said his friend will be able to put aside his contract dispute and contribute on the field.
Tuck said Umenyiora is "itching" to get back on the field. But Umenyiora remains unhappy with his contract and Tuck hopes the two sides will be able to continue to work on a solution with Umenyiora back on the field.
"Just because he's back on the football field doesn't mean that this whole saga, I guess, is over," Tuck said before the Giants practice on Monday. "He is doing what he thinks is best to help this football team and himself and you got to give him credit for that."
"He's not happy with his contract, everyone knows that," Tuck continued. "I think he will still work with the Giants as far as trying to resolve that part of it. That is what I mean by the saga. I don't think he is going to let that affect his play or how this football team prepares for the game. But it ain't necessarily over."
Umenyiora, who did not speak to reporters, lined up Monday as the starting right defensive end with the first unit. Giants coach Tom Coughlin said the pass-rusher was able to jump right back in.
"He's not behind any meetings," Coughlin said of what Umenyiora has missed while sitting out practices until now. "The football part, he is up on completely."
Coughlin did not know whether Umenyiora will play on Monday night against the Bears in a preseason game. He said the team typically eases players back in but that Umenyiora could see some snaps if ready.
The coach said he had not spoken to Umenyiora one-on-one on Monday but was going to eventually. Coughlin expects Umenyiora to be fully engaged and ready to give the team his all despite his unhappiness over his contract.
"I hope it is all behind (us)," Coughlin said. "That is all I am going on. He is here and wants to work and wants to be a part of the team. We want it all. We don't want part. I am hoping that is the way it is."
On Sunday night, Umenyiora emailed The Associated Press and said he would return to practice without any alterations or incentives added to his contract, which has two years remaining and a total of $7.1 million in base salary.
Umenyiora said he still feels disrespected by the organization, which has offered to add performance and team incentives to his contract.
But Umenyiora said he wants to return for his teammates, his coaches and the fans.
"I can see it," Tuck said when asked why Umenyiora is itching to return. "He hasn't said it but you can see how he comes in the meeting room and how he interacts with guys and when we make plays on film, you can see how he responds. I know him well enough to know when he's itching to get back on the football field."
Just about every player has said that Umenyiora has not been a distraction throughout this entire soap opera.
Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell also said Umenyiora had been participating in meetings like he normally does.
"He's been alert in meetings, has been at every practice, paying attention, getting his knee right," cornerback Terrell Thomas said. "I think it was more of a media stunt to make it a bigger deal than what it really was. He has been a team player this whole time. It's been unfortunate about the situation but I am happy it is being corrected and now being a Giant again. If he's back, he's back."
The Giants likely will have Umenyiora assume his starting spot opposite Tuck with second-year defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul rotating in.
Pierre-Paul had been taking the first-team reps in practice with Umenyiora on the side and he had two sacks in a quarter in the preseason opening loss to Carolina on Saturday.
"Basically it's going to be a rotation again," said Pierre-Paul, who welcomes Umenyiora back. "Coach has already told me. I'm going to be working both sides and that is how I played last year."
The question is will Umenyiora be able to play like he did last year and how will his emotions over his contract affect his play.
Umenyiora had 11.5 sacks and 10 forced fumbles last season and provides the Giants with one of the most fearsome pass-rushing attacks in the league with Tuck, Pierre-Paul and Mathias Kiwanuka, who will start at linebacker but also move to defensive end at times.
"Relieved, happy to have him back," Tuck said. "And he seems happy to be back and hopefully we can put this all behind us and get ready to play football."
"I know Osi, when he steps on the football field, his focus is as high as anybody," Tuck added. "He knows how to separate the two. A lot of guys don't have that capability. I know he does."
Ohm Youngmisuk covers the Giants for ESPNNewYork.com.
Justin Tuck has no doubt in his mind that Osi Umenyiora will be able to put aside his differences with the New York Giants over his contract and give his best effort on the field.