- Ohm Youngmisuk, ESPN Staff Writer
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He just wants a new contract and is hoping that the Giants and Reese will give him one once the NFL lockout ends.
One day after his affidavit emerged with a statement about how the Giants general manager made a promise to him to renegotiate his contract or trade him as part of the NFL players' antitrust case against the NFL, Umenyiora said he does not have any anger or hostility toward the Giants or Reese as of now.
In a telephone conversation with ESPNNewYork.com, Umenyiora explained his affidavit statement was made as part of the legal argument the players are making against the owners that the lockout is causing irreparable harm to players like Umenyiora.
Umenyiora wants to remain a Giant and hopes that once the lockout ends, the team will rework the six-year, $41 million contract extension he signed in 2005. Umenyiora, who had 11.5 sacks and 10 forced fumbles last season, currently has two years remaining for a total of $8 million.
If they choose not to give him a new deal, Umenyiora will consider a trade to another team that will negotiate a new contract.
"I can't be angry at them because they haven't done anything to me," Umenyiora said of the Giants. "I love that team and I love that whole organization. I want to be with the Giants, but if that is not possible, I just have to go wherever they send me."
"I haven't accused them of doing anything because nothing has been done as of yet," Umenyiora continued. "Once this lockout is over, then we are going to see what transpires after that. But as of now, they can't talk to anybody, they can't talk to my agent, can't talk to me at all. Even if they had decided to trade me or whatever, they can't talk to other teams about doing that. Nothing can be done. This lockout has definitely affected me adversely in that manner."
When asked if there would be any way he could be convinced to play this season under his current deal, Umenyiora paused and responded, "Honestly I don't know. ... I honestly don't know how to answer that question. That is something I have to sit down with my agent Tony (Agnone) and really discuss and see what my strategy is going to be because I am not getting any younger."
That is why Umenyiora is one of the plaintiffs in the Brady vs. NFL case that will be heard in federal court in Minnesota next month. The decertified Players Association argues that the lockout is causing players irreparable harm. In Umenyiora's case, he cannot have his contract renegotiated or seek a trade during the lockout.
In the affidavit, Umenyiora states that Reese told him in a face-to-face meeting in April of 2008 that "two years from the start of the 2008 league year, if I was currently playing at a high level, we'd either renegotiate my current contract so that it would be equal to that of the top five defensive ends playing or I would be traded to a team that would do that." The statement in the affidavit was reported by ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter on Thursday.
Umenyiora missed the entire 2008 season due a knee injury and had seven sacks in 2009 after he was demoted in favor of Mathias Kiwanuka toward the end of the season. Umenyiora clashed with then-defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan before threatening to retire if he didn't regain his starting job in 2010.
He earned his starting spot back in 2010 and had a monster season with 11.5 sacks and an NFL-record 10 forced fumbles. He now feels that he is playing at a high level again and counts 2009 and 2010 as the two years Reese allegedly told him was the time frame before looking for a new deal.
"He's not a liar," Umenyiora said of Reese. "He's definitely an honest man, been honest and forthright with me. We know what type of the Giants organization is, they are the best. I don't think in no form or fashion he is a liar. He hasn't been made out to be one. They just haven't had the opportunity to do anything (due to the lockout)."
The Giants have not commented on Umenyiora, who feels he can stack his numbers up against the best defensive ends in the game.
"When I look around when I match my numbers to other top guys in the league, I just don't see any disparity," said Umenyiora, who has had a total of 59 sacks in his last six seasons. "I don't see any difference between my numbers and a (Dwight) Freeney or my numbers and a (Julius) Peppers or my numbers and a (John) Abraham over the last three years played. They might have a couple of more sacks but I have more forced fumbles, which is what any coach will tell you is the mark of a true, game-changing defensive player. I think I have done that more than anybody. I think you can match my numbers up to anybody else's numbers and I feel like I have earned it."
Umenyiora is one of a couple of dilemmas facing the Giants organization this offseason. Besides Umenyiora's contract, the Giants have to re-sign Kiwanuka, who missed all but three games last year due to a herniated disk in his neck. Kiwanuka, who was cleared to resume his career in February, could become an unrestricted or restricted free agent.
Reese has said he could offer Kiwanuka a one-year deal to re-establish his worth on the field and minimize the risk of investing heavily into a player coming off a neck injury. However, if Kiwanuka becomes an unrestricted free agent, he could potentially receive bigger offers from other teams and a starting defensive end job, something he covets.
The Giants have a fearsome foursome of defensive ends if they can keep both Umenyiora and Kiwanuka with defensive captain Justin Tuck and promising youngster Jason Pierre-Paul. Finding playing time for all four will be difficult, especially with Pierre-Paul emerging into a force.
But at least Umenyiora is healthy, something he could not say last season when he played with a painful hip injury that required surgery in the offseason. Umenyiora says he is ready to play pain-free right now. But playing through sometimes excruciating pain last year makes his desire to secure a lucrative contract now even greater.
"There were definitely some games in any other year I probably wouldn't be able to play," he said. "I took all the pain killers, I took all the shots. ... I did all that, to go out and prove myself and prove to everybody that I am who I said I was and I think I accomplished that goal."
"I feel like I haven't felt in a while like in a couple of years," Umenyiora added of being healthy. "I don't have a three-inch bone that was jabbing out of my hip. I am able to move around with a lot less pain. The amount of stress that I put my body under and the amount of pain that I had to play through, the Giants know what I went through last year. Going through all that makes it all the more important to maximize the money you can make in this short amount of period that you play."
Making matters even more uncertain is the lockout. Umenyiora has no idea what the Giants will do once the lockout ends.
"I don't know exactly what they can do, what it is they are capable of doing," Umenyiora said. "If they weren't going to re-do my deal, if they were going to trade me, instead of potentially trading me for picks (during the draft) this year, now they have to trade me for picks next year which isn't really going to help them this year. It is a bad situation but I don't know what is going to happen."
"That is what the affidavit was about," Umenyiora continued. "It wasn't about me calling (Reese) a liar or me saying the Giants have done this or done that. It has nothing to do with that. It was basically the NFL Players Association showing that the lockout is causing harm, especially to me."
Ohm Youngmisuk covers the Giants for ESPNNewYork.com.
11hBy Ian O'Connor