NEW YORK (WFAN/AP) — This is one of those years Giants defensive captain Justin Tuck would like to forget.
Coming off his second Pro Bowl season, Tuck has had more injuries than sacks.
Count them: neck, groin, ankle and finally a toe that somehow got bent out of shape. They have forced him to miss four games and play in several others where he has looked like a scrub instead of one of the NFL’s most feared defensive ends.
The statistics say it all. His sack count is three, 8½ less than 2010, and he has only 31 tackles heading into Saturday’s key game against the local rival Jets (8-6) at MetLife Stadium. There have been no forced fumbles and no recoveries in a season where the entire defense has struggled and left Tom Coughlin’s team with little wiggle room.
Listen: Tuck with WFAN’s Mike Francesa
The Giants (7-7) need to beat Rex Ryan’s team and Dallas (8-6) to get to the playoffs for the first time since 2008. They can lose Saturday and still back in, but then they no longer control their path.
“I think a lot of times you get caught up in the (numbers),” Tuck said Thursday after practice. “I’ve been to a few Pro Bowls. I’ve had 10-plus sack seasons. You get caught up in all of that. At the end of the day it’s win. That’s all I’m focused on right now.”
On a positive note, Tuck was not listed on the team’s injury report for only the second time this season. When asked how he felt, he said “great.”
As in capital ‘G’ great?
“As in Tony the Tiger great,” Tuck said.
The goal now is to make the most of what is left in the season by delivering some big plays against Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez.
“It’s not like we’re not out trying to make it happen,” Tuck said. “It just hasn’t happened. So I’m not going to allow myself to get down on that fact. We’re going to keep pressing forward. Like you said, my numbers aren’t going to be what they’ve been in past years, but we have two more games here and my focus is making the best out of these two games, forgetting the last 14.”
Like most of his teammates, Tuck didn’t say anything controversial about the Jets. He bluntly said Ryan has done an outstanding job of putting the Jets back on the NFL map, and he expects a physical game with the Jets also fighting for a postseason berth.
Winning is all that matters, he said. Bragging rights are worthless.
“The only thing I care about is getting another one of those shiny things on my finger,” Tuck said. “That’s the only thing that we play this game for anyway. Ask Rex Ryan if he’s cool with the (AFC) championship game two years in a row. Guarantee you he’ll trade one of those for playing in the Super Bowl and winning it. At the end of the day, that’s what we’re playing for.”
Tuck spoke while wearing a T- shirt honoring paralyzed Rutgers football player Eric LeGrand. The shirt had an image of LeGrand on the front with the word believe written several times. On the back was the name Eric LeGrand, a very small No. 52 and the words “I’ll be back.”
LeGrand was paralyzed in a game at MetLife Stadium in October 2010 making a tackle on a kickoff against Army.
Tuck went out to dinner with LeGrand this past spring and the two have gotten to know each other well, Tuck said.
“The motivation I get from him is tremendous,” Tuck said. “A situation where not many would be as upbeat and as encouraged about his future as anybody I know that can walk. I think that’s pretty encouraging.”
“It’s hard not to root for a guy like him,” Tuck added.
LeGrand has been impressed watching Tuck battle the adversity of injuries. However, he says this has not been typical Justin Tuck production.
“I know. I believe he has only had three sacks,” LeGrand told The Associated Press. “He is battling injuries and it’s not a Justin Tuck year. But he has to be happy he is still playing the game, you know.”
NOTES: After missing the last three games with migraines caused by a neck injury, David Baas will start at center. Kevin Boothe will move back to left guard and Mitch Petrus will sit. …DE Osi Umenyiora (ankle) and TE Jake Ballard (knee) are not going to play Saturday. …RBs Ahmad Bradshaw (foot) and Danny Ware (knee) did not practice Thursday but are expected to play Saturday. …WR Mario Manningham (knee) didn’t practice and his status is day to day.
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