Giants' Umenyiora out for season with ligament damage

Updated: August 25, 2008, 8:34 AM ET
Associated Press

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- With the retirement of seven-time Pro Bowl defensive end Michael Strahan, the job of repeating as Super Bowl champions was going to be difficult for the New York Giants.

Now it might be near impossible with the news that fellow Pro Bowl defensive end Osi Umenyiora is out for the season with a knee injury.

An MRI on Sunday showed that Umenyiora tore the lateral meniscus in his left knee in a preseason game against the archrival Jets on Saturday night.

The two-time Pro Bowler will have surgery on Tuesday at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City. The recovery period is about four months.

Dr. Russell Warren, the team surgeon, never discussed a non-surgical option, coach Tom Coughlin said.

Losing The Sack Race

The Giants led the NFL with 53 sacks last season, but with Osi Umenyiora out for the season, three of their best pass rushers in 2007 won't be on the field in 2008.

Player 2007 sacks 2008 status
Osi Umenyiora 13.0 Out for season
Justin Tuck 10.0 With Giants
Michael Strahan 9.0 Retired
Fred Robbins 5.5 With Giants
Mathias Kiwanuka 4.5 With Giants
Kawika Mitchell 4.5 With Bills

"My number one concern is about Osi," Coughlin said in a telephone conference call on Sunday. "I did talk to him on the phone a short while ago and told him that he is in everyone's thoughts and prayers."

The devastating report came less than 24 hours after the team had thought it had caught a break in the wake of the second-quarter injury, which happened when Umenyiora's foot seemed to stick to the turf as he tried to beat Jets tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson to the outside.

Umenyiora was carted off the field with what the team described as a locked knee. X-rays taken during the game revealed no ligament damage. An MRI on Sunday found the torn meniscus on the 26-year-old who led the team with 13 sacks last season.

"It was obviously the news that I did not want to hear," Coughlin said. "But after listening to the explanation and Dr. Warren's thoughts on it, I am convinced that this is the right procedure and the right way to go."

The combination of the injury and Strahan's retirement leaves the Giants, who open the season on Sept. 4 against the Washington Redskins, very thin at defensive end.

Justin Tuck has replaced Strahan at left end. Replacing Umenyiora at right end will not be easy. He has had 40 sacks over the last four seasons. His team-high 13 sacks last season were highlighted by a franchise-record six against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sept. 30 at Giants Stadium.

Coughlin has three choices to replace Umenyiora. He can start either Renaldo Wynn, the veteran free agent who was signed in the offseason, or second-year pro Dave Tollefson, who played well late last season in a backup role.

The other option would be to move strongside linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka back to defensive end. He was switched to linebacker last year so the team could put its best 11 players on the field.

"I haven't talked to any of the players or to Kiwi or anyone this afternoon and until I do that, I will just refrain from any thoughts about what might happen within our team," Coughlin said.

Coughlin said losing a player in a preseason game is difficult.

"I think the number one thing that brings frustration, anxiety, and knots in your stomach, all the things that go along with the injury to the players which do not allow your team to function as it is presented on paper," Coughlin said. "Those types of things are very difficult for coaches, no matter what age you are."


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

ALSO SEE