By all accounts, New York Giants defensive end Justin Tuck had a tremendously disappointing 2012 campaign. He only sacked the quarterback four times, which was his lowest total since 2006 (when he only appeared in 6 games). Tuck averaged just 3 tackles per game this season, which was also his lowest mark since 2006. His body language was questionable, as he often appeared frustrated and dejected on and off the field this season.
Save for the final six games of 2011, Tuck has been completely ineffective over the last two seasons. He has trouble beating offensive linemen after initial contact and he rarely wins his individual matchup anymore. Whether it's a product of age, injury, motivation or all of the above, Justin Tuck's reputation and past accomplishments are the only keeping him on this roster. Despite his lack of production over the last two seasons, Tuck does is not ready to entertain questions regarding a departure from New York.
"Listen, man," he said flatly. "I’ll be very frank and honest in saying this: I plan on being here a very long time. And that’s pretty much all I have to say about it."
Tuck may plan on being with the Giants for a long time, but he will be entering a contract year in 2013. He's done a great service to Big Blue for playing his prime years at well below market value. It's not often that a Pro Bowl caliber defensive end is willing to play for an average of $6 million per season. However, if he doesn't return to form next year, the Giants are not going to resign a 31 year old defensive end who has not produced in three seasons.
It's unfortunate that Tuck is entering a make-or-break season just a year removed from leading the Giants defense to a Super Bowl victory. He could retire right now and go down as one of the most talented, beloved Giants to ever step on the football field. He represents the organization with pride, dignity, class and has been the unquestionable leader of the defense for the last three or four seasons. Furthermore, Tuck says that he will be the first one to hang it up if he doesn't think he can play at a high level anymore.
"Confidence in myself will never be lacking," he said. "Believe me, when I feel like I can’t do it anymore, I’ll be the first one to go up to Jerry Reese and tell them. I’m not going to be one of those guys who will stick around in the league just to get a paycheck. When I can’t play this game at a high level, you’ll know it, and I’ll gracefully bow out."
Justin Tuck has been the quintessential professional for the Giants for his entire career. His hard work, leadership and character are major reasons why the Giants have won two Super Bowls with him on the roster. However, the NFL is a business and if Tuck can not prove next season that he's still capable of being a productive member of the football team, the Giants are going to be in a precarious position next offseason.
Also…Football, Jerry Reese, Justin Tuck, New York, New York Giants, NFL, Super Bowl