New York Giants right guard Chris Snee will represent his team in the Pro Bowl for the fourth time in five seasons on Sunday, but an ugly cloud will hang over the nine-year veteran’s head during his 2013 trip to Hawaii. Snee is planning on having hip surgery after the Pro Bowl, according to Jenny Vrentas of The Newark Star-Ledger.
It wasn’t that long ago. The Giants were an overall young team during their first Super Bowl run in 2007. Veterans like defensive end Michael Strahan and wide receivers Amani Toomer and Plaxico Burress led a core of green talent like fourth-year quarterback Eli Manning and third-year defensive end Justin Tuck.
Time has not been kind to these Giants. Many of the once-promising youngsters will find themselves on the wrong side of 30 when the 2013 season kicks off next September.
Manning, 32, and Tuck, 29, have accomplished a lot during their careers, including Super Bowl XLII and XLVII victories. Still, the era of dominance that seemed imminent toward the end of the 2008 season has mysteriously eluded them.
As the Giants struggled to rise from mediocrity year after year, the team’s stars weren’t getting any younger. Snee, a mauler at right guard in ’07, is the latest Giant to feel the effects.
Snee started all 16 games in 2012, battling through the pain of bone spurs and a partially torn labrum. At 31 years old, Snee is starting to contemplate the wear and tear the game is having on his body (via Vrentas):
“Right now, my mindset is year-to-year," Snee said. "That’s all you can focus on. I sat down with my wife after this year and decided if I wanted to do it again. It’s a grind. There’s a lot that goes into it mentally and physically, but I couldn’t see myself walking away just yet.”
“[After Super Bowl XLVII] was when I physically felt shot. I said, ‘If I went through that again, I would be done,’ " Snee said. "This year, it was just the hip; I got rolled up on. It was actually someone falling onto the back of my leg that did the damage. Other than that, I kept myself in great shape and, physically, I felt better than I have in two or three years."
Snee has anchored New York’s offensive line since 2004 when he was drafted in the second round. Manning’s remarkable durability—he holds the active record for consecutive starts by a QB with 146 (including playoffs)—is a reflection of his personal protector’s permanence; Snee has only missed one game since he became the full-time starter in his rookie season.
Snee is not the only mainstay whose days with big blue are numbered. Right tackle David Diehl and cornerback Corey Webster’s ineffectiveness were on display in 2012; defensive end Osi Umenyiora has a foot out the door as he enters free agency; even running back Ahmad Bradshaw is slowly being pushed aside by up-and-comer David Wilson.
There’s always next year. It’s a simple phrase used to console fans that have grown restless with their team’s constant shortcomings. For fans, there’s always next year—for players, that’s not always the case.
Look at defensive end/linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka. He was a first-round draft pick in 2006, a highly touted pass-rusher that rounded out an all-star cast. After years of bouncing between positions, Kiwanuka is suddenly seven seasons deep in his career.
Kiwanuka has always done his job well, but it’s hard not to feel like he fell short of his full potential. His highest sack-total was eight in 2008, and, approaching 30 years of age, Kiwanuka’s best playing days may be in the past.
A new wave of Giants will take over the team in the coming years. Wilson, wide receiver Rueben Randle, cornerback Prince Amukamara and defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul will be remembered as the stars of this decade, as long as they’re able to flourish.