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Justin Tuck: Antonio Pierce questions his passion for the game

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Former New York Giants linebacker Antonio Pierce said recently that Justin Tuck is not the same player he once was, and questions how much passion Tuck still has for football.

Justin Tuck
Justin Tuck

Justin Tuck has not practiced all week due to a shoulder injury and is listed as 'questionable' for Sunday's critical game against the Baltimore Ravens. The New York Post reported this morning that the Giants' defensive captain "appears likely to miss" the game.

In truth, some would say that the Tuck we used to know has been missing for a long time. He had a mostly miserable 2011 season, battling injuries and off the field issues, although he rallied toward the end of the season to help the Giants to the title.

This season Tuck has had the worst individual season since he became a starter in 2007. Tuck has just three sacks and 25 quarterback pressures this season. For comparison, Osi Umenyiora has six sacks and 33 pressures in nearly 100 fewer snaps.

Former Giants' linebacker turned ESPN analyst Antonio Pierce says Tuck just isn't the player he used to be.

"I played with Justin Tuck and have a tremendous respect for him. But he has not been the same player emotionally, mentally or his play in the last three years. It's just the facts," Pierce said on The Michael Kay Show on ESPN 98.7 FM on Friday. "He came on late last season and once Antrel Rolle and a couple of other guys said he had to pick it up, but for the most part, he's a situation, third-down, passing situation defensive end."

Pierce couldn't put his finger on what exactly he believes is the difference in Tuck, but he has noticed that Tuck isn't showing the same fire he showed several years ago. Tuck did talk last season about considering retirement because of personal and family hardships.

"For me, the guy I played with, when he was there, a lot of energy, a lot of passion, brought it each and every play, each and every snap, loved to play the game," Pierce said. "I heard him mention it last year before the run [that] he didn't know where his mind was at, or if he was into the game. His comments this week, the same thing. As much as I want to give the answer, that's really a question he has to answer."

He added: "When you watch him on Sundays, you do not see the energy, you do not see the fire he used to play with. And I don't know why. I don't know if it's personal stuff going on or maybe he's physically tired."

Pierce raised a question there that has been lingering for a while. How much passion does Tuck, who now has two rings and has been fighting through injuries for years now, still have for the game?

Tuck has one year remaining on a five-year contract and is set to make $4.5 million next season. When head coach Tom Coughlin said this week that "it will probably take an offseason" to figure out entirely what the issues are with the Giants' pass rush it's fair to wonder if part of that discussion will be about Tuck and whether or not the Giants can count on him going forward.