How is 2013 not the most pivotal season for 30-year-old defensive end Justin Tuck?
That is the question.
When Tuck signed his five-year $30 million extension back in 2008, nobody figured that he'd enter the last year of that contract without another extension in place or at least rumblings of contract talks, but there's none of that—making 2013 do or die for him.
"My  performance was nowhere near what I envisioned for myself,” No. 91 told Ralph Vacchiano of the Daily News.
The sand in the hour glass is quickly running out for the captain.
Excluding Tuck's miraculous six-game stretch at the end of 2011 en route to leading the G-Men to their 21-17 victory over the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI, Tuck has rarely exhibited in the last two years the form he showcased between 2007 and 2010, four seasons in which he couldn't be stopped from wreaking havoc in the opponent's backfield.
While he's looking to personally rebound in a big way in 2013, New York's hopes hang in the balance with his success or failure, and Jason Pierre-Paul being sidelined by back surgery through the summer adds a lot more heat to the spotlight.
Giants General Manager Jerry Reese has always been in Tuck's corner, but he hasn't minced words about how his defensive end hasn't been living up to his contract: “Obviously Justin hasn’t played as well as we think he can play and what kind of player he has shown to be in the past.”
A month ago at Big Daddy Celebrity Golf Classic in Huntington, L.I., Tuck told Paul Schwartz of the New York Post, "I think for whatever reason I feel more alive in a football sense than I have in a long time. That’s a huge motivation for me this year."
Training camp officially begins Friday, and Tuck will embark on a career-altering season.
2013 is shaping up as the perfect storm for Tuck, as he'll either be propelled to earn a contract that will allow him to finish his career as a Giant or he will suffocate and crumble under the pressure.
According to Tuck, he's not letting any negative conditions enter his mind:
I’m not going to allow this whole circumstance to put pressure on me to perform, Tuck said. I put enough pressure on myself to perform. I don’t care if I come out the first three games and have 10 sacks, I don’t want to hear about a contract at all because that’s not my focus. I’m worried about getting this football team into another Super Bowl and then winning it. If that happens, all the rest of that will take care of itself.
Tuck isn't taking anything for granted this summer either, as he told Jeffri Chadiha of ESPN. "I definitely didn't work as hard as I should've last year...The lockout was going on. I took a trip to Africa. There were some things I did in the past that I didn't do last summer."
The Giants captain is saying all the right things. Now all that remains to be seen is whether he still has what it takes to once again be the pulse of the Giants defense.