Commentary

Will Osi's unhappiness affect his play?

Another flare-up could be a hurtful distraction, but Umenyiora's upside is worth the risk

Updated: August 16, 2011, 12:37 PM ET
By Ohm Youngmisuk | ESPNNewYork.com

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The weather was gloomy outside for most of the day. But the mood inside the New York Giants' practice facility was upbeat and practically sunny.

Osi Umenyiora participated in his first practice of the season and it seemed to provide a spark for a team that can definitely use one.

After sitting out with a sore knee and sore feelings over his contract, Umenyiora reclaimed his starting position at right defensive end as his teammates welcomed him back on the field with open arms.

Giants players never felt the defensive end's clash with the organization over his contract was a distraction. If anything, they fully supported Umenyiora's fight for a new deal.

The only thing that might've annoyed them was the periodic questions from reporters about it being a distraction.

So the question now is whether Umenyiora could become a distraction now that he's on the field?

After all, how can he give his all for a team that refuses to give him the raise he believes he desrves? After playing through an injured hip last year with hopes of landing a new deal, Umenyiora says he is returning under the same deal without any added incentives.

Umenyiora has yet to explain his thinking but clearly he did not like the incentives offered and how much money could be added to his deal. Also, Umenyiora still holds out hope for a new contract or a trade and adding incentives would prevent him from renegotiating a new deal since a contract can only be renegotiated once per year according to sources.

Justin Tuck, Umenyiora's friend and teammate, said both sides still have plenty to resolve.

"Just because he's back on the football field doesn't mean that this whole saga, I guess, is over," Tuck said. "He is doing what he thinks is best to help this football team and himself, and you got to give him credit for that." "I think he will still work with the Giants as far as trying to resolve [his contract]," Tuck added. "That is what I mean by the saga. But it ain't necessarily over."

Osi Umenyiora
Tom Hauck/Getty ImagesDisgruntled DE Osi Umenyiora finally practiced with the Giants on Monday.
So, there's always the possibility that another flare-up or episode could happen at any point between Umenyiora and the Giants. Umenyiora still has a lingering sore knee that Tom Coughlin admitted might have to be managed with a day off here and there.

But Umenyiora may hold the fight off until next season when he could get back in the ring with Reese and finally get some sort of resolution.

Tuck says Umenyiora will be able to keep his personal feelings off the field and play as he always has for the Giants.

"I know Osi, when he steps on the football field, his focus is as high as anybody," Tuck said. "He knows how to separate the two. A lot of guys don't have that capability. I know he does."

His presence not only makes life easier on Tuck but he will make new starting left tackle Will Beatty a better player by going up against him in practice every day. Beatty has had to battle the likes of Jason Pierre-Paul in practice until now so working against two premier pass-rushers should prep him nicely for the regular season.

And if Umenyiora decides to stage a protest sometime during this season, the Giants know what life can be like without their Pro Bowl defensive end after seeing Pierre-Paul manhandle the Panthers offensive line and collect two sacks in a quarter during the preseason opener on Saturday.

But an angry Umenyiora might not be such a bad thing for the Giants. He will be highly motivated to prove the Giants wrong and will be playing for a new contract.

Last season, he thought he was doing just that and he finished with 11.5 sacks and an NFL-record 10 forced fumbles.

Now he has a bigger chip on his shoulder and that might make defensive coordinator Perry Fewell smile even more this year.

Ohm Youngmisuk has covered the Giants, Jets and the NFL since 2006. Prior to that, he covered the Nets, Knicks and the NBA for nearly a decade. He joined ESPNNewYork.com after working at the New York Daily News for almost 12 years and is a graduate of Michigan State University.
Follow him on Twitter »  Ohm's chat archive »

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