Commentary

Osi: Giants not the same without Plax

Updated: February 5, 2011, 9:40 AM ET
By Ohm Youngmisuk | ESPNNewYork.com

Osi Umenyiora firmly believes former teammate Plaxico Burress can have the same success Michael Vick is having once he is released from prison.

Umenyiora just hopes Burress makes his comeback with the Giants, who haven't been the same without their star receiver, according to the team's star defensive end.

"If you look at our team before, when Plaxico was in, if you look after he's gone, even though we have had some success and even though we have played pretty well, it just hasn't been the same without him," Umenyiora said while making an appearance on "Jim Rome Is Burning." "He's a great guy; I hope he comes back."

The Giants have missed the playoffs the past two seasons without Burress, who hasn't played since 2008 after accidentally shooting himself in the thigh at a Manhattan nightclub.

Umenyiora said he has visited Burress in prison, and the defensive end came away thinking the wide receiver is definitely ready to resume his career mentally and physically. Burress could be released in June based on good behavior.

"He's in great spirits," Umenyiora said. "He looks great. He is lean; he is in good shape. He's focused and he seems happy. I just can't wait for him to come out and I think he is going to have a great impact a la Michael Vick."

Vick, of course, made his comeback by starting fresh in Philadelphia and didn't shine until his second season removed from prison.

If the Giants decide Burress is committed and focused, Eli Manning will welcome back his former 6-foot-5 target, saying a reunion "could be a good thing." Pittsburgh's Hines Ward also said this week at the Super Bowl that he wants his old teammate back. Burress was drafted by the Steelers in 2000.

Even though Burress hasn't played since that shooting Nov. 28, 2008, Umenyiora has no doubt that the 33-year-old wide receiver still has plenty left in the tank.

"No question, the talent that he possesses, you just don't see players with that type of talent," Umenyiora said. "He hasn't taken a pounding for two years; his body is going to be fresh. He is going to be out there making plays the way he usually does.

"All Eli has to do … well, whatever quarterback he goes to, all they have to do is throw him up the ball and he is going to make plays," added Umenyiora, who chuckled when he caught himself starting to mention Manning as Burress' quarterback.

As for Umenyiora's own health, the defensive end said he is recovering well from recent hip surgery and will be ready in a few months.

[+] EnlargePlaxico Burress
Chris Morrison/US PresswireWill Plaxico Burress have anything left in the tank when he's released from prison?
"I'm good," Umenyiora said about his hip, which had pain lingering from a torn labrum he suffered in 2006. "I am walking, moving around. Things are going to be slow at first or whatever, but I would say in probably about a month and a half, two months, I should be fully recovered."

A year ago, Umenyiora discussed retirement after being upset about losing his starting job. But this year at the Super Bowl, Umenyiora is content and talking about various subjects from Burress to recent comments made by Antrel Rolle and Kenny Phillips about coach Tom Coughlin.

During a Miami radio interview, Rolle said Coughlin could loosen up a bit after seeing how the Jets responded to Rex Ryan's coaching style. When asked about Ryan's style, Phillips said the Jets' coach was the type he and other players would love to play for, while adding that he still was trying to figure out who Coughlin is outside of his coaching persona.

In an earlier interview with 1050 ESPN on Friday, Umenyiora stood by Coughlin's side, as Manning and Justin Tuck have done recently.

"No, I have absolutely no intention of playing for Rex Ryan," said Umenyiora, who is in North Texas for the Super Bowl to promote 5-hour Energy. "I am good where I am at. Going on nine years here now, I like the way our team is, I like the way everything has transpired. I like what we have done in New York.

"I like our coach; me and him have a solid relationship," Umenyiora continued. "Rex is a good coach in his own right, but really, what have they won? You know what I mean? Our coach has won, and his style has proven to be a winning style."

Umenyiora said Phillips and Rolle are "entitled to their own opinion" and allowed to say what they want to say. But he believes Coughlin's style has proved it works with the Giants' Super Bowl victory during the 2007 season. Phillips and Rolle have since said they did not intend for their comments to spark controversy and that they are completely happy as Giants.

"If that is what Kenny and Antrel feel, that is on them," the defensive end said. "They are grown men. But you know, obviously I don't think the majority of our team agrees with that sentiment."

Umenyiora started every game this past season, and finished with 11.5 sacks and 10 forced fumbles.

The defensive end shined under new defensive coordinator Perry Fewell after clashing with Bill Sheridan the previous season. Returning in the 2009 season after missing all of 2008 due to a knee injury, Umenyiora lost his starting job in the final month of play. That prompted a frustrated Umenyiora to say last February that he would rather retire than return as a role player.

But Umenyiora was a starter under Fewell, who is currently a candidate for the Titans' head-coaching vacancy. Umenyiora understands the popular defensive coordinator can move on eventually. Fewell also was a candidate for previous head-coaching openings at Denver, Cleveland and Carolina.

"I'd be happy for him," Umenyiora said when asked how he will react if Fewell is hired by the Titans. "Coach Fewell came in when obviously the season I had the year before, it cast a giant shadow on my future and people were saying a lot of things and talking a bunch of trash, whatever, man. He came in and he believed in me. If he has an opportunity to advance his career, I will be all for it and I will be happy for him."

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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