Time For Justin Tuck To Become A Leader

Michael Strahan said recently that defensive end Justin Tuck needs to step up and become the vocal leader of the New York Giants' defense.

"We talked about it last week," Strahan said. "Tuck's a smart guy, he's a logical guy to be the leader, one of the 'faces of the team' now. Whenever you're the face of the team that's one of the responsibilities. I have no doubt he can do it, I have no doubt he will do it."

Well, Strahan actually does have some doubt. Tuck at defensive end is the closest thing on the field the Giants have to Strahan, and Tuck the past two years has certainly emerged from Strahan's considerable shadow. But he's not a natural leader in the Strahan mold.

"You can't make somebody do something they may not want to do," Strahan said. "He can do it and he probably doesn't want to do it. The thing is, if you're a star player in New York City and you're going to get all the perks of being a star, you're going to be seen everywhere and everybody's going to respect you and everybody's going to say, 'You're great, you're great, you're great,' and you want to be treated like a star then you need to be one.

"The reluctance I don't understand. To me, if you want to win, you'll do whatever is required for you to win. If it requires you to step out of your comfort zone and to be more vocal and step on some toes in order to inspire and motivate guys, that's what the heck you got to do. Hell, that's what I did and I didn't apologize to nobody for it."

I believe Strahan is dead-on when it comes to Tuck. He is the team's best defensive player, is now a veteran, has a Super Bowl ring, a Pro Bowl pedigree and superstar status among the fan base. I know Tuck was hurt last year, and did not play as well as he or the Giants would have liked. His biggest failing, though, was not stepping into the leadership void left first by the departure of Strahan a couple of seasons ago and then by the season-ending injury to Antonio Pierce.

The Giants were not getting leadership from defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan, and they were rudderless. Tuck said he felt he could not be vocal in criticizing teammates because he did not feel his own performance was up to par.

"The thing about me is that it is tough for me to say something to a guy or I guess lead a guy when I see something going on when I can’t lead by example. Because of the injuries this year I didn’t feel like I had a right to kind of say some of the things that I wanted to say because I couldn’t practice 100 percent and I couldn’t do the things that I wanted to do to kind of lead this team by example. For me, personally, it is tough to jump on some other guys for what he is doing when I am not able to do it myself.

"When you are coming off an injury and whatever my level is at 100 percent, if I am not at that level it is hard for me to start criticizing other people for whatever level they are at. I want to be playing at my all-time high all the time before I say anything to somebody else on where they might be."

I believe I have said this before, but I believe Tuck is misguided here. Regardless of how healthy he was, Tuck gave everything he had on every play. I believe doing what he did with one healthy arm put him in an even better position to lead, to demand from his teammates that they gave everything they had. Something which, it was painfully obvious, did not happen all the time in 2009.

Hopefully, Tuck will accept the mantel of leadership this season. Whether he goes through the year 100% physically or not.

Other Giants News & Notes

"We've got something to prove this year coming back and starting this year off right just like last year and being able to have a tremendous year this year is going to take a lot of teamwork ... "The team wasn't there. The team concept, we didn't play as a team. We didn't play as one, which to win football games you've got to play as one. You've got to play with one heart, one will. We just didn't come as one."
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