Tuck proving self after 2 injury-plagued seasons

It wasn’t long after getting a career-best four sacks against

Robert Griffin III that Giants defensive end Justin Tuck looked

down at his phone and saw the message from former teammate Osi

Umenyiora.

It probably got Tuck to laugh after the Giants (5-7) rebounded

from a loss to Dallas with a 24-17 decision over Washington on

Sunday night for their fifth win in six games.

There has always been a strong bond among Giants defensive

linemen. They work, sweat and sometimes bleed in the pursuit of one

goal. Even when one plays in Atlanta with the Falcons, the bond is

strong.

“Of course I text him,” Umenyiora said Monday in an email to The

Associated Press. “It was an amazing performance from him and I

told him how happy I was for him. And I was going to be very happy

for him unless he got 6 sacks. I told him I will hold on to that

record.”

Umenyiora set the Giants’ single-game mark of six sacks against

Philadelphia in 2007, a year New York won the Super Bowl.

The playoffs probably aren’t going to be in the picture for the

Giants this season after losing their first six games. The

30-year-old Tuck, however, is showing how good he can be when

healthy. He played with shoulder and neck injuries the past two

seasons and many wondered whether his best days were behind

him.

“Like I always say, I don’t worry about what critics say, just

as long as my teammates support me and know how I go out and play

the game,” Tuck said Monday. “At the end of the day, you want to

have a successful season, you want to lead your team to victory.

That’s basically what I focused on doing this offseason and last

night it finally came together a little bit.”

Tuck said the key to this season has been staying healthy. It

allowed him to stay in the weight room and play at full strength.

He has also helped himself, eating the right foods and doing the

right things.

While the sacks got the nine-year veteran noticed nationally

Sunday night, Tom Coughlin has said repeatedly this year that Tuck

has been a major factor in the Giants’ ability to stop the run.

“I feel like this season I have been more of a complete player,”

said Tuck, who played every defensive down against the Redskins

with fellow end Jason Pierre-Paul sidelined by a shoulder injury.

“I feel like I could have had a few games like the one last night,

if everything fell into place. I feel like I’ve had games where I

was in the backfield a lot, disrupting plays or was a half a second

away from sacks. I think I have been more of a complete player this

year.”

The Giants still have work to do and Tuck may have to put in

another full game at San Diego this weekend with JPP still a

question mark.

“Honestly, the mood has been great,” said Tuck, who last played

a full game in 2007. “I think guys have played loose and are having

fun out on the football field, which I can’t say we did do the

first couple of weeks of the season. I think this team is very

close right now and we just have to play into each other. I think

that’s our tremendous difference.”

In the meantime, Tuck is following another Giants tradition. He

is mentoring rookie defensive end Damontre Moore.

Lawrence Taylor mentored Michael Strahan. When Umenyiora was

drafted by New York in 2003, Strahan taught him. Tuck got the

advantage of learning from ‘Stray’ and ‘Osi’ and developed into one

of the NFL’s premier linemen until injuries slowed him much of the

past two seasons.

“I think the thing for Damontre is not everybody is going to

come out of college, not every stud in college is going to be a

stud in the NFL in the first year,” Tuck said. “God knows I wasn’t.

God knows I had a lot of problems.

“I’m just trying to keep him positive. I said to him that his

time will come because he’s a tremendous athlete. He does have that

desire to learn. I think he has a lot of great guys around him that

are going to continue to teach him and show him the ways, the way

Michael and Osi showed us. Maybe you won’t immediately see him

break out, but I think he has a bright future.”

Tuck also has a future, but where is the question? He will be a

free agent after this season.

AP NFL website: -www.pro32.ap.org