Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora not only is one of the NFL’s best pass-rushers, he’s also one of its very best interviews. He proved that once again Monday during my visit to the Giants’ training camp at the University of Albany.
I went up there to talk to Umenyiora and others for an upcoming piece in the Daily News.
At one point in the interview, I asked Umenyiora about last year’s first Eagles-Giants game at the Meadowlands. As everyone certainly remembers, that was the infamous Winston Justice Game. The Giants sacked quarterback Donovan McNabb 12 times in the 16-3 Week 4 win. Umenyiora had six of them, including four that were given up by Justice, who started at left tackle in place of injured Tra Thomas.
Many of us were dumbfounded that the Eagles’ offensive coaching staff didn’t give Justice more/any help on Umenyiora in that game. Umenyiora was dumbfounded too.
"A lot of people like to blame Winston Justice and say this and that about him," Umenyiora said. "But you don’t do what the Eagles did that day in the NFL. You don’t leave a guy out there (alone) like that. Even when I’ve played against Tra Thomas, they never left him out there like they did Justice.
Umenyiora finished third in the NFC in sacks last year with 13.
"A lot of times, it’s the luck of the draw," he said. "I’ve beaten (other) offensive tackles way more times than I beat him. But that day, every time I did, it ended up being a sack. All of the stars had to be aligned for me to have a day like that."
One of those aligned stars was the absence of running back Brian Westbrook, who is an outstanding pass-protector in addition to everything else he can do. His replacement, Correll Buckhalter, had almost as bad a day blocking as Justice.
"(Justice) is a good offensive tackle, man," Umenyiora said. "He’s not a bad football player. I hate the fact that when people mention his name right now, they just associate him with having given up those sacks. But everybody seemed to be watching that game. I felt bad for the kid. But I had to do what I had to do."
With apologies to shoeshineboy, who gave me kudos yesterday for not going all Peter Kingish in my blog report on my visit to the Baltimore Ravens’ training camp, and telling you where I ate and what my favorite coffee is, I finally followed UAlbany alum Jody McDonald’s advice and checked out Sutter’s Mill and Mining Co., a burger bar across the street from campus. You were right, Jody Mac. The burgers are outstanding. The cold beer wasn’t bad either.
Oh, and lest I forget, I want to give a shout out to my daughter Allison, who is taking the Pennsylvania and New Jersey bar exams this week. Very soon, the number of lawyers I like will officially increase from zero to 1.