(Neil Miller/Sportsday Wire)
Although, he fought the Giants a number of times for a better contract and ended up leaving for Atlanta two years ago, Osi Umenyiora always thought of himself to be a member of Big Blue.
In fact, he even rooted for them as a Falcon.
“I would literally get on a plane coming back from games, and I love my Atlanta teammates, don’t get me wrong,’’ Umenyiora said. “We would be watching the Giants and I would be openly cheering for the Giants in a plane full of Atlanta Falcons, and they’d be looking for me like, ‘Is this guy out of his mind?’ I just couldn’t help myself. It was that Giant in me.’’
So today, Umenyiora returned to the Meadowlands for one last time. He signed a one-day contact and retired as a Giant. The way he wanted it.
“Once I made the decision, I said to myself: I already know what it’s like playing for another franchise. Atlanta was great, no doubt about that, but for me it was either I was gonna play for the Giants or I wasn’t gonna play football at all,’’ Umenyiora said.
And frankly, it’s the way it should be.
Much like the way Carl Banks was to Lawrence Taylor a generation ago, Umenyiora was the complimentary piece on the defensive line. First to Michael Strahan – who referred to him as his little brother on various occasions – then to Justin Tuck. He was the Ying to their Yang and his presence made the defense the second coming of the Big Blue Wrecking Crew..
But all things come to come to an end and Umenyiora is now moving to London and taking a job with the NFL. It was reported by various outlets, the Jets were interested in him, but to him Gang Green was not Big Blue.
And those two titles prove it. He said the upset of the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII was his greatest memory as a Giant.
“The second one was good, but the first one was unreal,’’ he said. “There’s very few people who know
the feeling of nobody giving you a chance to win.’’
It’s nice seeing him again standing in-front of the Giant logo, although it would be nicer if he was wearing his No. 72 jersey. Big Blue could use him up front this year. However, the Giants are better served going with youth.
“Once I became truly aware that the Giants have some young players who they need to develop who play the same position that I would be playing, I would do nothing but stunt their growth. Once I understood that, I said to myself: ‘Why not retire?’ I’m not gonna be a journeyman defensive end. I don’t deserve that.’’
No he doesn’t. The defensive end closes his career with 85 sacks, 35 forced fumbles, 14 fumble recoveries, five touchdown returns, two Super Bowl triumphs and two Pro Bowls.
With those numbers, Umenyiora may be back one day to be inducted into the Ring of Honor, but right now, it’s off to London he goes, where he will be cheering the Giants from across the pond.