Osi Umenyiora and the Giants have had a complicated relationship.
The outspoken defensive end accused the organization of targeting him personally after he was benched toward the end of last season, and angrily demanded a trade if he didn’t regain his role as a starter. He even threatened retirement to try to get his way.
But in his first interview since the start of training camp, Umenyiora is singing a different tune.
"Obviously, I've been very selfish in the past with my demands and some of the things that I have wanted, but I don't really feel that way any more right now," Umenyiora told the New York Daily News.
In camp, Umenyiora has been splitting time at right defensive end with Mathias Kiwanuka. While the battle for that starting spot may have been contentious at one point, Umenyiora insists that he’ll be perfectly happy playing a supporting role, if that turns out to be the case.
"As soon as I get on that playing field I'm going to make plays, period," he told the New York Post. "No matter where they put me, if I'm coming off the bench, I'm just going to be the best bench player ever. It's not a personal vendetta against me or anything that I've done in the past. I think that everybody needs to be a little bit less selfish and realize that there's enough playing time, there's enough money, there's enough everything out there for everybody and I think we'll be good to go."
After winning the Super Bowl, Umenyiora was upset that the Giants opted not to extend his contract. His argument for an extension took a hit when he injured his left knee and missed the entire 2008 season following surgery. Currently, he has three years and $10 million left on his contract.
Contract aside, his injuries and attitude factor into making this season a big one for Umenyiora, partially because it may be one of his last.
Only 28 years old, Umenyiora has said he hopes to play four more years in the NFL. But if his career is cut short, he seems surprisingly OK with that too.
A torn hip flexor he sustained in 2006 requires surgery, something Umenyiora said he might not even bother to address in the near future.
"It's something that I need to do, that I need to have taken care of if I want to prolong my career," Umenyiora said. "But I'm not sure if I want to do that anyway."
Umenyiora’s sudden lackadaisical attitude about his football future is a far cry from the fierce and demanding competitor who would have nothing less than a starting job. Is it a sign that he’s coming to terms with the end of his career?
If Umenyiora is in fact pondering an early retirement, this season could be his final hurrah with Big Blue. And whether he starts on the field or on the bench, he should have plenty of opportunity in a rotation of defensive talent to make his mark and go out on a high note.
"Sometimes I think about it, and sometimes I'm like, really what am I prolonging my career for?" Umenyiora told the Daily News. "I mean, everything that I wanted coming into the NFL, everything I wanted, I've accomplished, whether that's winning a Super Bowl or being an all-star player or being financially secure, I've accomplished all that already."
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