A variety of injuries a year ago had New York Giants defensive end Justin Tuck briefly considering retirement. However, after talking to head coach Tom Coughlin and teammate Antrel Rolle, he snapped out of it, returned to form and helped lead the Giants to a Super Bowl XLVI victory. But here in 2012, it's been eerily reminiscent of that pre-talk Justin Tuck – the one who had retirement on his mind. And former linebacker Antonio Pierce, who was on the same field as Tuck when he was at his best, says he's not the same player.
"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."
Like everyone else however, Pierce has no idea exactly what's different about Tuck or the Giants as a whole, just that he's not the same player and they're not the same team.
"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."
Tuck, who has one year remaining on a five-year deal and is scheduled to earn $4.5 million in 2013, is never shy about his struggles and has acknowledged them. Earlier this week, he said flat out that he hasn't been getting the job done, and that the talk has started to distract him and other members of the defensive line.
"I haven't had a good year. JPP hasn't had a good year. Kiwi, Osi, none of us have had good years compared to what we expect from ourselves," Tuck said recently. "Honestly, I think we just need to stop worrying about what people write and what people say about our pass rush and just get back to beating people up front. I think you start listening to what people are saying about, ‘You’re not getting sacks and you’re not doing this,’ you start trying to look for answers instead of focusing on the answer, which is you beating the guy in front of you. I think that’s what we’ve got to get back to."
Tuck and the rest of the line have only two games to "get back to" their disruptive ways or risk being sent home early.
Also…Antonio Pierce, Antrel Rolle, Football, Justin Tuck, New York, New York Giants, NFL