Osi Umenyiora would be 'cool' as sub

Updated: August 4, 2010, 8:30 PM ET
By Ohm Youngmisuk | ESPNNewYork.com

ALBANY, N.Y. -- Osi Umenyiora said Wednesday he would be "cool" with coming off the bench for the New York Giants if Mathias Kiwanuka wins the defensive end job.

Umenyiora still wants to start and he is battling pain in his hip to play this season -- a year he calls his most important. But he doesn't want to be selfish and said he'll do whatever's necessary to help the Giants rebound from an 8-8 season.

"They're going to use us all to the best of our abilities," said Umenyiora, who talked for the first time in training camp. "Obviously, I've been very selfish in the past with my demands and some of the things that I wanted. But I don't really feel that way anymore right now. There's enough playing time for everybody.

"No matter where they put me, if I'm coming off the bench, I'm just going to be the best bench player ever."

Umenyiora had said in the past that he would consider retirement if he didn't regain his starting position. He then said that the best players will start and that if he is one of the best in camp and doesn't start, there could be issues.

But on Wednesday, Umenyiora said he is willing to make sacrifices and if the Giants believe their chances of winning are better with Umenyiora coming off the bench, he'll accept his role.

The defense is loaded at defensive end with Justin Tuck, Kiwanuka, Umenyiora, first-round pick Jason Pierre-Paul and Dave Tollefson. Tuck is starting at left defensive end. New defensive coordinator Perry Fewell has split first-team snaps on the other side between Kiwanuka and Umenyiora, who practices once a day with a lingering hip issue.

"If they really felt like [Kiwanuka starting] was going to help this team win, then of course I would be cool with that," Umenyiora said. "It would not affect my bottom line in any way."

"They're going to use me to the best of my abilities because this team wants to win," Umenyiora continued. "It's not a personal vendetta against me or anything that I've done in the past. I think that everybody just 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."

Umenyiora won't point to his hip injury as an excuse if he doesn't perform at a top level. The defensive end suffered a hip flexor injury in 2006 and pain flares up in his hip from time to time. The former Pro Bowler doesn't want to go under the knife again after knee surgery kept him out of the entire 2008 season.

He said he could have had surgery on his hip during the offseason but opted against it because it wouldn't guarantee that he would return healthy this season. When he found out he couldn't damage it any further by playing with it, Umenyiora opted to go without surgery.

"I'm really not looking forward to getting cut open again," Umenyiora said. "It's something I really don't want to do. [The doctors are] saying that it's really not getting any worse but it's something that I need to do, that I need to have taken care of if I want to prolong my career. I'm not sure if I want to do that anyway."

Umenyiora feels pain after he practices or plays in games. and said it takes him longer to recover. He says the best-case scenario is that he plays another four seasons, but right now he is focused and extremely motivated for this year.

"Osi is a prideful kid," general manager Jerry Reese said. "He has been a really good football player for us and he still wants to be. I expect him to have an explosive impact on this defense. There are a bunch of motivated people on this team."

Umenyiora has been fueled by doubters and critics who think the eight-year pro has already seen his best days. He only had seven sacks last season and was demoted in favor of Kiwanuka.

"This season is more important to me than any injury," Umenyiora said. "When I look around all I see is negativity and people saying I can't do this and I can't perform and I [stink] and at the end of the day I still feel like I'm an exceptional player. When I look around and I hear about people saying that this team can't do things and this team can't go far, I think we have an exceptional team. This season right here is probably the most important year of my life and for this team also."

Ohm Youngmisuk covers the Giants for ESPNNewYork.com. Follow him on Twitter.

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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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