For New York Giants defensive end Justin Tuck, the end could, potentially, be near. The nine-year NFL veteran enters Sunday's game against the Washington Redskins knowing that once it's over, he essentially becomes an unrestricted free agent and that no return is guaranteed.
It's sure to be an emotional day for Tuck, who has asked his agent not to keep him apprised of any negotiations. As such, he understands Sunday could be the final time he plays at MetLife Stadium, in front of the Big Blue faithful as a member of the New York Football Giants.
"I'll be a little teary-eyed after I walk off the field, maybe," Tuck said Thursday. "I won't say definitely, but maybe. It makes a better story if I say teary-eyed."
Whether or not the Giants even look to re-sign Tuck remains to be seen. After all, the team has some serious evaluating to do this offseason, and some difficult decisions to make on their future. Will they start the rebuilding process? If so, can they even afford someone like Tuck? Ultimately, there's too much uncertainty to even project what the roster will look like — especially when you consider the large contract offers he's likely to receive from other teams desperate for veteran leadership.
Add in the fact that Tuck hobbled through both the 2011 and 2012 seasons, and there becomes an additional risk in re-signing him.
However, that rough patch shouldn't entirely overshadow what Tuck has done here in 2013. He's played at a Pro Bowl level, ranking near the top in grades for 4-3 defensive lineman league-wide and clearly still has something left in the tank.
"I think he’s played the run well, I think he’s much improved over a year ago. I think he’s played with greater edge and greater purpose. I’m very pleased with the things he’s done for us," defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said of Tuck. "I think Justin Tuck has definitely performed at [Pro Bowl] level."
But Tuck won't be alone come Sunday. For offensive lineman David Diehl, his Giants career could also be coming to an end. However, unlike Tuck, Diehl refuses to look ahead, remaining focused solely on the task at hand.
“I’m not thinking about long-term now — it isn’t going to help me on Sunday,” Diehl said. “What I’m doing is focusing on this one game, focusing on making sure that I’m healing myself up, getting ready to go and getting ready to go out there and play like I always do. We play for one another, we play for our team, we play for this organization, we play for the New York and New Jersey area. It means a lot to be a Giant and I think each and every one of us feels that way and we want to close it that way.”
Win, lose or draw, injuries and recent inconsistencies aside, both Diehl and Tuck have meant a tremendous amount to the Giants organization and the local communities over the years. If Sunday proves to be their respective finales, we should all tip our caps, thank them and wish them the very best moving forward. Because, let's be honest, without them, this team would have two fewer Super Bowl trophies.
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