EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (WFAN/AP) — It wasn’t long after getting a career-best four sacks against Robert Griffin III that Giants defensive end Justin Tuck looked down at his phone and saw the message from former teammate Osi Umenyiora.
It probably got Tuck to laugh after the Giants (5-7) rebounded from a loss to Dallas with a 24-17 decision over Washington on Sunday night for their fifth win in six games.
There has always been a strong bond among Giants defensive linemen. They work, sweat and sometimes bleed in the pursuit of one goal. Even when one plays in Atlanta with the Falcons, the bond is strong.
“Of course I text him,” Umenyiora said Monday in an email to The Associated Press. “It was an amazing performance from him and I told him how happy I was for him. And I was going to be very happy for him unless he got 6 sacks. I told him I will hold on to that record.”
Umenyiora set the Giants’ single-game mark of six sacks against Philadelphia in 2007, a year New York won the Super Bowl.
In the meantime, Tuck is following another Giants tradition. He is mentoring rookie defensive end Damontre Moore.
Lawrence Taylor mentored Michael Strahan. When Umenyiora was drafted by New York in 2003, Strahan taught him. Tuck got the advantage of learning from ‘Stray’ and ‘Osi’ and developed into one of the NFL’s premier linemen until injuries slowed him much of the past two seasons.
“I think the thing for Damontre is not everybody is going to come out of college, not every stud in college is going to be a stud in the NFL in the first year,” Tuck said. “God knows I wasn’t. God knows I had a lot of problems.
“I’m just trying to keep him positive. I said to him that his time will come because he’s a tremendous athlete. He does have that desire to learn. I think he has a lot of great guys around him that are going to continue to teach him and show him the ways, the way Michael and Osi showed us. Maybe you won’t immediately see him break out, but I think he has a bright future.”
Tuck also has a future, but where is the question? He will be a free agent after this season.
“I hope (I’ll be a Giant),” Tuck told WFAN co-hosts Boomer Esiason and Craig Carton on Tuesday. “Obviously it’s a business. We understand that. But I’ve been here nine years, I’ve been very successful, I’m fully ingrained in this community. Yes, I would love to be a New York Giant. But we’re gonna sit down and talk about it at the end of the year, and approach it just like the Giants will — as a business.”
Star wide receiver Victor Cruz, who was in the studio with the radio duo at the time, interjected during the two-time Pro Bowler’s response.
“Absolutely (he’ll be back),” Cruz said. “91 does not look good in any other color but blue.”
But the nine-year veteran doesn’t want to think about his contract status right now.
“Everyone asked me about the contract, but I already told my agents, ‘We’re not talking about a contract until this season is over,'” Tuck told Boomer & Carton. “So my focus is, we’ve got four games left. We’re still in the playoff hunt. Obviously a lot of things have to happen, it doesn’t look good. But we’re gonna play these four games like our lives depend on it … Everything else after that will take care of itself.”
The playoffs probably aren’t going to be in the picture for the Giants this season after losing their first six games. Tuck, however, is showing how good he can be when healthy. He played with shoulder and neck injuries the past two seasons and many wondered whether his best days were behind him.
“Craig, you know me, and you know I don’t complain,” the 30-year-old told Boomer & Carton. “In football, you’re not gonna feel 100 percent. But you go out there and you play the game … I picked it up a little bit and have been playing better lately. I’m focused on finishing the year at a high level. We’re moving on, we’re moving on.”
Tuck said the key to this season has been staying healthy. It allowed him to stay in the weight room and play at full strength. He has also helped himself, eating the right foods and doing the right things.
While the sacks got the two-time Super Bowl champion noticed nationally Sunday night, Tom Coughlin has said repeatedly this year that Tuck has been a major factor in the Giants’ ability to stop the run.
“I feel like this season I have been more of a complete player,” said Tuck, who played every defensive down against the Redskins with fellow end Jason Pierre-Paul sidelined by a shoulder injury. “I feel like I could have had a few games like the one (on Sunday), if everything fell into place. I feel like I’ve had games where I was in the backfield a lot, disrupting plays or was a half a second away from sacks. I think I have been more of a complete player this year.”
The Giants still have work to do and Tuck may have to put in another full game at San Diego this weekend with JPP still a question mark.
“Honestly, the mood has been great,” said Tuck, who last played a full game in 2007. “I think guys have played loose and are having fun out on the football field, which I can’t say we did do the first couple of weeks of the season. I think this team is very close right now and we just have to play into each other. I think that’s our tremendous difference.”
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