Justin Tuck backs Osi surgery decision

Updated: August 20, 2011, 4:05 PM ET
By Mike Mazzeo | Special to ESPNNewYork.com

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- New York Giants defensive end Justin Tuck says teammate Osi Umenyiora planned to address his troublesome right knee after the season, but it kept swelling up after practice and became too much for Umenyiora to bear.

"We had already talked about it and what his plans were going to be," Tuck said Saturday. "He came out in practice with every intention of letting his knee be dealt with in the offseason. After a couple practices it swelled up on him, and him and the Giants made a conscious decision to take care of it now. It wasn't like he planned on it. He planned on playing the season with it, but seeing how it was the first week of practice, he felt like the best idea was to take care of it now."

Umenyiora, a two-time Pro Bowl defensive end who had 11.5 sacks and 10 forced fumbles last season, will miss three to six weeks, if not longer, after having arthroscopic surgery to clean out his right knee on Friday. The 29-year-old had just began practicing with the team Monday after he had his knee cleared by team doctors and a specialist in Atlanta last week.

"I saw him. He's in good spirits," coach Tom Coughlin said Saturday, noting that Umenyiora has already returned to the team's practice facility. "The doctor said it went well and he was able to do some debridement."

The hope had been that Umenyiora could manage the injury and perhaps practice every other day, if needed. But Umenyiora experienced swelling in his knee after practicing for three days, and he couldn't handle the pain.

"It was better to do it now as opposed to midseason," Umenyiora said Friday through the team. "It was going to have to be done; the only question was when. If I'm going to miss a little while, I would prefer it be now than at the crucial part of our season. It's the best decision for the team and myself."

Asked how tough a blow Umenyiora's absence would be for the defense, Tuck responded: "We don't know yet. Obviously it is a blow, but just like before when he was holding out or not practicing, it gives other guys an opportunity. JPP (Jason Pierre-Paul) will definitely feel comfortable with his role and stepping in as a starter at that position. Dave Tollefson is having a great camp, and we just roll them in and roll them out.

"Osi needed to take care of this issue, and luckily he's taking care of it now, and it doesn't affect us midseason. I think it is a good thing for him to deal with it now and we will be excited when he comes back."

Until Umenyiora does return, the Giants will have go with Pierre-Paul, a promising second-year pass-rusher who was the team's first round pick in the 2010 NFL draft.

"Basically I just have to do what I have to do," said Pierre-Paul, who had two sacks against the Carolina Panthers in the Giants' preseason opener. "Coach came to me with the Osi news and he let me know that with Osi out, I need to step up."

Pierre-Paul emerged late in his rookie season last year to put up 4.5 sacks and 30 tackles. He also forced a pair of fumbles.

Tuck said he hopes he doesn't see constant double-teams. But if he does, the onus falls on Pierre-Paul to get to the quarterback.

"I feel good," Pierre-Paul said. "(The) coaches wouldn't put me out there if they thought I couldn't do the job. Now, I just gotta do the job."

Pierre-Paul said that when Umenyiora does return, he'll have no problems with giving his starting position up.

"It doesn't matter to me to start," Pierre-Paul said. "Whatever happens, when I get in the game, I'm gonna do what I can do, and that's play great football."

Umenyiora missed the first two weeks of practice with a sore knee while also clashing with management over a new contract. He wanted a raise from the final two years of his deal worth a total of $7.1 million in base salary, or to be traded to a team that would pay him.

The Giants briefly allowed Umenyiora to seek a trade through his agent. But after a couple of days, they rescinded permission to work out a deal when no team was willing to offer a first-round pick in return for the pass-rusher.

The Giants offered Umenyiora performance incentives to be added to his contract, but he rejected it. A player can renegotiate his contract only once per season.

Mike Mazzeo is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com. Information from ESPNNewYork.com's Ohm Youngmisuk was used in this report.

Mike Mazzeo

ESPN New York Writer

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