Could this playoff run be the swan song for Osi Umenyiora as a member of the New York Giants? Let me put it this way -- I will be stunned if it is not.
Umenyiora spoke to reporters Thursday and if you do what he asked, which was to "read between the lines" of his comments it is pretty obvious the veteran defensive end anticipates this to be his last go-round with the Giants.
"[I’m] really enjoying it. Don’t put me on the spot. Read between the lines," Umenyiora said with a laugh. "Really having a good time. I look around, I come in inside, I look around, I smile, I cherish it. I cherish it.
"I am not saying nothing. Read between the lines."
Umenyiora returned to the Giants last week after missing four games with an ankle injury, and he returned in typical style -- registering a pair of sacks. That gave him nine in the nine regular-season games in which he played. So, it is obvious that Umenyiora is still a pass-rushing force.
Something else was also obvious, though. The landscape of the Giants' defense has changed. The right end now, justifiably, belongs to Jason Pierre-Paul. The left side belongs to Justin Tuck. Umenyiora, a guy who considers himself to be a top five defensive end in the NFL, is now clearly the No. 3 defensive end on the team he plays for.
Umenyiora played 29 snaps Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys, many of them coming from the left side. He told reporters that was "not something I plan on continuing."
Really? While Umenyiora seemingly said it with no malice the reality is that to remain a Giant he will have to get used to spending at least some of his time on the left side. He will also have to get used to being the third wheel, a guy who plays primarily as a pass-rush specialist. Twenty-four of his 29 snaps Sunday were on passing downs.
Right now, Umenyiora is happy to be playing at all after an injury-plagued season. He is especially happy to be back in the playoffs.
Simmering beneath it all is Umenyiora's longstanding unhappiness with his six-year, $41.3-million contract, which has one year remaining. Along with that is the defensive end's apparent distrust of general manager Jerry Reese.
This week none of that is important as Umenyiora and the Giants prepare for the Falcons and hope to make a deep playoff run. This off-season, though? It's hard to imagine that Umenyiora won't -- again -- request a trade. When he did that before this season the Giants basically ignored him, setting their demands so high no team would bite. This time, though, I would expect the Giants to be much more accommodating.
When that time comes, it really will be too bad. I have been critical of Umenyiora's outbursts over the years, his tendency to occasionally disappear from games, and his sub-standard run defense. Thing is, Umenyiora is perfect for the role in which he was used on Sunday night -- and would likely be used by the Giants going forward. A pass-rush specialist. A guy who plays limited snaps, lets other guys do most of the heavy lifting against the run and comes on the field with one purpose -- getting after opposing quarterbacks. He still does that as well as anyone in the league and his presence makes the Giants a better, more versatile defense.
Hopefully, Umenyiora and the Giants enjoy this playoff run. It seems like the last time they will be together.