EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Osi Umenyiora definitely has Justin Tuck’s back.
He just wonders why former teammates-turned-television analysts Antonio Pierce and Michael Strahan don’t.
Umenyiora blasted both former players for their criticisms of Tuck. The two were outspoken on Tuck not playing through neck and groin injuries last week, maladies that will keep Umenyiora’s bookend and defensive captain out for his third straight game Sunday against Buffalo (4-1).
“It’s very, very disappointing,” Umenyiora said Friday as the Giants (3-2) concluded preparations for the Bills. “I can understand when the media does it. I don’t care about that, that’s their job. But the other guys played the game and they know what it’s like.
“It’s very disappointing, and it makes me question how real and how authentic they really are.”
Tuck said earlier in the week that he had a calm, measured conversation with Pierce, who ironically left the game in 2009 because of a neck injury. Pierce said Tuck and running back Brandon Jacobs, heading into his second idle week with a sprained left MCL, needed to play.
“To me,” Pierce said, “if you don’t have an injury that needs surgery or that’s severe, you need to be out there.”
Pierce’s ESPN comments didn’t acknowledge Tuck’s reputation as a warrior, honed especially in 2009 when he played through an early-season shoulder injury caused when Dallas tackle Flozell Adams tripped him. Tuck then underwent offseason surgery to correct the partial separation.
Strahan, on Fox, chided Tuck for missing the second half of the Sept. 25 win over the Eagles, when he originally aggravated the existing neck injury.
Umenyiora said he’s let his feelings known to both.
“Every time I see one of these people who’ve made these statements, I have to let them know that’s just ridiculous,” Umenyiora said. “All these guys who are saying these things, they went through the same things we went through.
“It’s just crazy. They know better. You have to take care of your health. You can’t question a guy’s toughness. You don’t know what he’s going through on the football field.”
Umenyiora, second behind Jason Pierre-Paul on the Giants with four sacks, left no doubt about his disappointment with both former players. But he also saw the comments as out of character.
“Antonio, he’s a good dude,” Umenyiora said. “I don’t know what happened. He’s a good friend of mine and he’s going to remain a good friend of mine. Same thing for Strahan. He knows better than that. Stray’s my boy, my mentor, but I don’t know where that’s coming from. It’s disappointing.”
And then Umenyiora postulated exactly where the genesis of such comments might lie.
“Sometimes you get in the media and you just have to say something,” Umenyiora said. “I’ve been in some of these production meetings and the producer will tell you, create controversy and say some things you otherwise wouldn’t have said.
“It’s disappointing, but you move on.”
Tuck was not available for comment.