Mathias Kiwanuka has always been a team player since being drafted by the New York Giants eight years ago and no matter what they've asked him to do, whether it be play defensive end or linebacker, or even going as far as taking a paycut to help the team land free agents, he's always been up for the job.
Now entering his ninth season in the league, all with the Giants, Kiwanuka is again being put to the task; this time, take over a starting role left by former team captain Justin Tuck, who departed via free agency to the Oakland Raiders. But it's nothing new for Kiwanuka to step up and start when needed; which he did in 2008 after Osi Umenyiora went down for the season with a knee injury and he started all 16 games and recorded eight sacks.
Now at 31-years-old, Kiwanuka is will look to have a season similar to that one, which in his eight years, had his highest sack total, but as he told the media on Monday during practice, he feels that the 2014 season will be his best one of his career.
"Honestly, this is the best I’ve felt since I’ve gotten here," Kiwanuka said. "Some of it is time. As the time goes, you become more comfortable in a situation; playing one position and playing one side of the ball. Those kinds of things do make a difference. I guess I never really understood the importance of it, but being able to stay on one side, to work against one person."
Kiwanuka is using the motivation of a disappointing season in which he did record six sacks, but was graded as one of the worst full-time pass rushers in the league. Thus far in the preseason and in training camp, Kiwanuka has graded out as one of the better 4-3 defensive ends and the defensive end admits that he knows his time in the league won't last forever and is enjoying his time, thus why he's in a more relaxed state of mind.
"It’s so much fun," he said. "The waking up, the grind part, being away from your family, I could deal without that. But when I finally get a chance to walk out of those meeting rooms and onto the field, it’s a chance for me to have the most fun I can. I absolutely hate sitting in meetings but I absolutely love getting into games. And, you know, I’m getting to the point where I know I’m not going to do this forever. I’m taking it in and enjoying it. That’s a freeing feeling. I’m not anxious about anything anymore. I’m out here to achieve the most I can for myself and my team."
The paycut that Kiwanuka took — dropping his salary down to $1.5 million — was something that at first he was bothered by, but after having the offseason to think about it, he's not letting it get to him and will simply concentrate on his game and helping the Giants be a winning football team in 2014.
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