Umenyiora sits, but is it just a ploy?

New York Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora, who is locked in a contract dispute with the team, sat out Thursday evening’s practice claiming a "sore knee" in a move described by even his teammate and friend Justin Tuck as "a strategy."

Umenyiora rode a stationary bicycle then watched his teammates on the field, the New York Post reported. The Giants explained his absence in a statement, pointedly saying, "because he says he has a sore knee."

The disgruntled Umenyiora, who is seeking a new contract with two years remaining on his deal, has yet to take part in any practices thus far in camp even though Tuck, and head coach Tom Coughlin, said his opting-out was neither health nor injury related.

Umenyiora has told the Giants he may need knee surgery, which would cut into his regular season. He had major surgery to repair a torn meniscus cartilage in his left knee in 2008, costing him that entire season. He had surgery this off-season to repair lingering side effects of a torn hip labrum he suffered in 2006 and last month declared himself fully recovered.

The Giants are not disputing that Umenyiora has a knee condition but the team is not sure it requires immediate surgery and instead believes can be managed, most likely by limiting his practice reps and giving him days off.

Following Umenyiora’s contract request, the Giants allowed his agent, Tony Agnone, to seek a trade, demanding a first-round pick in return. After two days and Agnone not finding a team willing to part with a No. 1 pick, the Giants rescinded the offer and an attempt is being made to provide some sort of salary adjustment to appease Umenyiora, who wants a hefty increase from the $3.1 million he is scheduled to make in 2011.