Justin Tuck 'concerned' about hurt neck

Updated: September 9, 2011, 12:37 PM ET
By Ohm Youngmisuk | ESPNNewYork.com

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- New York Giants defensive end Justin Tuck is concerned about the lingering pain in his neck and sounded uncertain about his status for Sunday's season-opener against the Washington Redskins.

Tuck is still feeling the effects of a stinger he suffered in a preseason game against the New York Jets on Aug. 29. After going through a limited practice on Wednesday, Tuck did not practice on Thursday.

When he suffered the injury against the Jets, Tuck shed a block from a tight end before colliding with Jets tackle Vlad Ducasse on a play during the third quarter. Tuck's left arm slumped and appeared to go limp as Tuck walked off the field. The defensive end, though, thought it was nothing more than a minor temporary injury.

"Just a regular stinger. ... I've had a few of those in my career," Tuck said. "Didn't think nothing about it."

But over a week later, the team's defensive captain and best player did not sound too confident about playing against the Redskins.

"I am concerned but I am not panicked," Tuck said. "It is getting better but just not as fast as I want it to."

"We are going to do what's best," Tuck added. "You don't want to go out there and lose a season off of one game. But if I'm ready to play I will definitely strap it up."

Typically, Tuck plays through an assortment of injuries and pain to the point where it's easy to take the defensive end's availability each week for granted.

But Tuck does not want to take any risks when it comes to his neck. He watched good friend and teammate Mathias Kiwanuka sit out all but three games last year with a herniated disk in his neck and worry about his career.

"One of the main factors in me coming back was that as soon as I felt a symptom, I got it checked out immediately," said Kiwanuka, who played in the first three games last year and initially felt he could play through the discomfort he experienced in his neck. "And that's pretty much what saved my career. So any time somebody has a neck injury, they have to err on the side of caution."

"You can't fight through a neck injury," Kiwanuka added. "You can fight through a lot of things, but a neck injury is not one of them."

Kiwanuka didn't need surgery after resting it for months but he did have to visit several doctors and wasn't cleared to resume playing again until February.

"I'm not nowhere near in that situation," Tuck said of Kiwanuka's neck issue. "(But) it definitely gives you pause."

"I have played through more pain," Tuck added. "It is kind of eerie when you talk about your neck."

The Giants have suffered numerous season-ending injuries on defense but this is one injury that Perry Fewell's unit can't afford.

The Giants are already without defensive end Osi Umenyiora for perhaps another week or two as he recovers from arthroscopic knee surgery. If Tuck doesn't play, Dave Tollefson could start in his place opposite Jason Pierre-Paul at defensive end.

Fewell said he did not know if Tuck will play against Washington.

"We have a plan," Fewell said. "If Tuck plays, that's a bonus for us. If he doesn't, hey, we're ready. We're going down to win a football game on Sunday and we're not crying. We are locked and loaded. He gets better every day. If he plays, like I said, it's a bonus for us."

Tuck said one positive so far is that he doesn't feel any pain shooting down his arm and that the discomfort is all localized.

"He says he is better every day but to this point he hasn't practiced the way we would like him to," coach Tom Coughlin said. "We are trying to get it absolutely pain-free and it is not quite there. You don't want to set it back and then you would have some issues."

It's been a brutal preseason thus far. The Giants lost cornerbacks Terrell Thomas, Bruce Johnson, Brian Witherspoon, defensive tackle and second-round pick Marvin Austin and linebackers Jonathan Goff and Clint Sintim for the year due to injuries. Cornerback Prince Amukamara, the team's first-round pick, also remains out indefinitely with a broken foot.

The Giants can use some good news medically. Tuck hopes he'll receive that good news on Friday or later this weekend.

"We are making sure we are crossing all our T's and dotting all our I's on this one," Tuck said. "When I played against Tampa Bay with a torn labrum, I knew I had to have surgery later in the year and just whatever, shoot it up and take away the pain and play. This is a little different."

Ohm Youngmisuk covers the Giants for ESPNNewYork.com.

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.
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