7 Things We Learned About the New York Giants During Super Bowl Week
While it's been an information-packed week in which we learned everything from which players are under the radar to opinions about the state of New Jersey, one of the two host teams has found itself in the news for more than just its hospitality.
The New York Giants, an organization that no doubt would have preferred to have taken a backseat for the entire week so as to not steal any thunder from the game itself, made some headlines this week, both good and bad.
Here's a look back at the seven biggest ones to emerge.
Defensive End Justin Tuck Will Test the Free-Agency Market
A little more than a month ago, defensive end Justin Tuck, who was coming off one of his best seasons since 2011, told the media that he wanted to retire as a Giant.
"Everyone knows how great this place is and how great this organization is, these fans, this city, this region and that's the ideal [situation]," he said, via Tom Rock of Newsday.
Somewhere along the line, perhaps during the meeting he had with general manager Jerry Reese after his year-end media session to remind Reese of how good of a player he still is, something went astray.
What that something is, I can't say for sure. If I had to guess, I'd say that Reese—who has some major work to do to fix an offense that his boss, team CEO John Mara, described as "broken," via Giants.com—wasn't willing to commit to anything.
It's not known if Tuck has since met with Reese, though he told Bart Hubbuch of the New York Post that he planned to sit down with Reese again "in a couple of weeks" to reopen discussions about his future with the team.
Meanwhile, Tuck told Hubbuch that he will test the free-agent market.
"I would be doing myself a disservice if I didn't see what the market is, and I will," Tuck said.
Tuck might want to be careful before he leaps into a new situation. Last year, defensive end Osi Umenyiora, his former teammate, was in an identical situation, a situation that could be heading south in a hurry this offseason if the Atlanta Falcons decide to go with youth.
If you recall, Umenyiora, like Tuck, had a solid contract season. In 2012, he finished with 6.0 sacks in 16 games.
When free agency hit, the 32-year-old Umenyiora couldn't seem to get away from the Giants fast enough, signing a two-year deal worth $8.5 million.
By year's end when Atlanta was out of the playoff race, Umenyiora was reduced to a reserve role that he might be asked to keep moving forward—assuming he's still on the team.
Vaughn McClure of ESPN points out that Umenyiora's $4.75 million cap figure for 2014 might be a bit steep for the Falcons to carry if they keep Umenyiora as a reserve.
Getting back to Tuck, whose contract demands haven't been made public but which would presumably include money and perhaps a chance to remain in the starting lineup given his "good player" comment made to Hubbuch, he claims to understand where the Giants are coming from.
If that's indeed the case, then he needs to understand that given the marketing opportunities in New York, the money he's sure to make should more than balance out any kind of reduced contract and/or role he'd have to take to remain with the Giants.
If I had to guess what happens, I think Tuck will return to the Giants, though probably not right away. While one can't blame Tuck for wanting to score one last big contract, he can at least take some comfort in knowing that he's built himself into a highly marketable brand.
Eli Manning and the Giants Are Being Sued
For as long as I've been covering the Giants—2014 will be my 20th season, in case anyone is wondering—the organization has always been a first-class, squeaky-clean shop that has done right by its fans and by the league.
So imagine how surprising it was to read the explosive details first reported by the New York Post in which quarterback Eli Manning and some members of the front office and equipment staff are being sued by a sports collector for allegedly creating fake "game-worn" memorabilia.
Both Manning and the Giants have described the lawsuit as being without merit, with both vowing to "defend it vigorously," per two separate statements released by the team on behalf of the organization and Manning.
Kaja Whitehouse, the reporter who broke the original story for the New York Post, has since followed up with a report in which a former employee of Steiner Sports, the exclusive seller of Eli Manning's memorabilia, revealed suspicions that not all of the "'game-used'" gear was real."
Presumably the Giants are hoping to resolve this lawsuit as quickly as possible lest it become a distraction for a team that is trying to rebound from a disappointing 7-9 season.
Pele Might Have Been a Giant
The New York Giants franchise has had some of the game's all-time greats wear its uniform, such as linebacker Lawrence Taylor, quarterback Y.A. Tittle, running back Frank Gifford and defensive end Michael Strahan, just to name a few.
The Giants came close to having another all-time great don their team colors, that being international soccer star Pele.
In an interview with ESPN Brasil (h/t The Associated Press via The Washington Post), the 73-year-old soccer legend revealed that the Giants contacted him about becoming their kicker after he retired from the New York Cosmos soccer club in 1977.
Pele, who led Brazil to three World Cup titles during his career, said he "did well" in his NFL tryouts, but that he decided to pass on the opportunity to join the Giants because he "didn't want to return to sports after a long soccer career."
Defensive End Jason Pierre-Paul Doesn't Need Shoulder Surgery
For all the wear and tear a pro athlete's body absorbs, surgery is generally the last option athletes want to pursue.
Who could blame them? Some surgeries can take weeks, if not months, from which to fully heal. That in turn means longer rehab and less time to train the way an athlete needs to in order to be at the top of his/her game.
That often affects one's performance, which then potentially leads to hundreds of thousands of contract dollars lost.
So imagine defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul's relief when, after visiting with noted orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews to consult about his ailing shoulder, he was told that he doesn't need surgery.
According to Conor Orr of The Star-Ledger, Pierre-Paul, who has been resting and rehabbing his shoulder, will meet again with Andrews in six weeks to make sure that his shoulder issue, the exact nature of which was not announced, continues to head in the right direction.
Pierre-Paul—who said he was never really above 75 percent health-wise after having offseason back surgery, then tweaking a knee and then suffering the shoulder issue—will be entering his contract season in 2014.
Not surprisingly, he has his eyes set on having a strong season.
"I know I'm going to be 100 percent next year going into the season," he told Orr during a Super Bowl week event to promote Body Armor. "And training camp and minicamp, OTAs—I'll be healthy for all that."
Warren Sapp Still Has a Problem with Michael Strahan's Accomplishments
For whatever the reason, Hall of Fame defensive tackle Warren Sapp has never really been a fan of defensive end Michael Strahan's candidacy for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The verbal battle seems to date back to 2002, right after Strahan set a new single-season NFL record with 22.5 sacks on what some consider to be a controversial sack of former Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre.
This past week, Sapp, an NFL Network analyst, opined that Strahan's career accomplishments weren't impressive.
"When you stack it up, and he only has four straight Pro Bowls and a mythical sack record that y'all still walk around like it's something to be praised. I mean y'all have got to get off your high horse in New York and speak about the real," Sapp told Neil Best of Newsday.
"And when you really measure him up, he comes up short."
The Hall of Fame selection committee disagreed with Sapp's argument, voting to immortalize Strahan as part of the 2014 Hall of Fame class.
In addition to the support of the selection committee, consisting of senior members of the Pro Football Writers of America, there was no shortage of public support for Strahan by the fans and his former teammates.
Former NFL offensive tackle Roman Oben, who was a teammate of both Strahan's and Sapp's, believes that while there is something to what he described as the "New York Hype," Sapp's argument that Strahan's numbers aren't Hall of Fame-worthy stands on quicksand rather than concrete.
"He talks about hype and all that stuff. You don't hype your way up to a 15-year career at left defensive end, getting all those sacks when quarterbacks see you coming, and you're getting chips and double teams a lot of the times. That's not a sound argument," Oben told me earlier this week.
Amani Toomer, who played with Strahan on the Giants' Super Bowl XLII team, told Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News that Sapp is "not a likeable guy."
Even Tiki Barber, who at one time had a public feud with Strahan over the defensive end's contract, has sided with his former teammate, calling Sapp "an idiot" last year, per Paul Schwartz of the New York Post (h/t B/R's Zach Kruse), after the defensive tackle took verbal shots at Strahan's accomplishments.
Oben believes that Sapp's beef with Strahan developed after Strahan broke the single-season sack record.
"Take that one sack away and Strahan still has 21.5 sacks for the season, and he still finishes with 140.5 sacks for his career. Those are Hall of Fame numbers," he said.
Indeed they are, and come August, Strahan, who will be the 20th member of the Giants organization to be enshrined as a Giant, is going to the Pro Football Hall of Fame where he so rightfully belongs.
Safety Stevie Brown Is Progressing Nicely from His ACL Injury
Giants safety Stevie Brown, who suffered a torn ACL in the preseason, stopped by Pro Football Talk's booth on Radio Row this week to discuss his progress in his rehab.
In that interview with Mike Florio, Brown said he expects to be able to work during OTAs that begin in May.
Brown, who will be an unrestricted free agent, also revealed that there have been some talks with the Giants about returning to the club next season. That news comes as no surprise, as earlier this month, Brown told Conor Orr of The Star-Ledger that he felt like he'd be back with the Giants.
"I want to be back so it's more so you just have to wait for the process now," Brown said. "Wait for it all to happen upstairs and just go from there."
As for what kind of money he might get, my guess is that the Giants will treat his contract similar to what they did with cornerback Terrell Thomas, who last year successfully returned from two consecutive ACL surgeries.
Per Rotoworld, Thomas received a one-year deal for $700,000 that included a $35,000 signing bonus and $500,000 in playing-time incentives.
A new contract for Brown, which again could mirror what Thomas got, could also include a salary split in the event he has a physical setback.
Kicker Josh Brown Can Sing
Kicker Josh Brown turned out to be a very good investment by the New York Giants.
Signed to a one-year minimum qualifying offer last offseason, Brown turned in much better numbers than his predecessor, Lawrence Tynes, did in 2012.
How good was Brown? Per Pro Football Focus (subscription required), he made 88.5 percent of his field-goal attempts (Tynes converted 84.6 percent in 2012).
Where Brown outdid Tynes by a wide margin was on kickoffs. Only 46.4 percent of Brown's kickoffs were returned in 2013, the opponent's average starting field position being the 20.6-yard line.
In 2012, Tynes had 73.4 percent of his kickoffs returned, with the opponent's average starting field position being on its 22.9-yard line.
It's no wonder that Brown is reportedly on the verge of re-signing with the Giants, according to a NJ.com report.
Before that report, Brown had told me during the Giants' "Baggy Day" at the end of the season that he hoped to return to the Giants, but that he was looking for more than just a one-year deal.
With a performance like what he posted in 2013, he could very well get it.
Besides his potential for a return to New York, people learned that Brown has another talent. He can sing.
In a promotional video for MetLife, Brown delivered a strong solo performance of "The Star-Spangled Banner," our country's national anthem, the solo effort of which you can hear in the above video.
Bits of that solo performance were incorporated into the "National Anthem with Football Stars" promotional campaign, a mashed version of the anthem with performances by teammate Justin Tuck, Nick Mangold of the New York Jets; Emmitt Smith, formerly of the Dallas Cowboys; Eddie George, formerly of the Tennessee Titans; and Greg Jennings of the Minnesota Vikings.
Brown told Ed Valentine of Big Blue View that he has sung in public before and that he's actually been singing since he was a child.
So if this football thing should suddenly stop working out for him, who knows? Maybe he has a career in music after his playing days end.