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Moving Forward



Of course, this preseason is testing the Giants' co-owners as few have. Cornerback Prince Amukamara, the Giants' first-round draft choice this year, is sidelined after undergoing surgery to repair a fractured bone in his foot. Amukamara was hurt in his first practice. Two-time Pro Bowl defensive end Osi Umenyiora practiced just three times before swelling his knee prompted him to undergo arthroscopic knee surgery last week. In last night's 41-13 preseason defeat of the Chicago Bears, cornerback Terrell Thomas, the team's leading tackler and interceptor in each of the last two years, suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament that will require surgery and sent him to the season-ending injured reserve list. Backup corner Brian Witherspoon suffered the same injury. Promising defensive tackle Marvin Austin, chosen on the second round of this year's draft, tore his pectoral muscle and will join Thomas as a season-long spectator.

Mara and Tisch are as unhappy about the injuries as any coach or player, but understand it's part of doing business in the NFL.

"It's unfortunate," Mara said. "You hold your breath every preseason game, every practice, but injuries happen in this league and that's why you have to have depth. I think we have depth, unfortunately we have a lot of injuries at the same position, so that's going to be challenging for us. But we think we have guys on the roster that can step in and do the job and we're obviously going to keep our eyes and ears open."

"The preseason can present a lot of injuries," Tisch said. "It's one of the reasons I think going forward, ownership and the Players Association are going to look at the preseason coming up in the next round of owners meetings. These guys aren't out there playing golf or chess or tennis. Injuries are part of the game. Last night's was a rough one. We've got guys on the mend coming back. Osi's going to be back and Prince is going to be back. I thought last night's game was fantastic. I think we showed our fans, I think the players showed the coaches that we're playing football this year and we're going to play it at the level our fans expect us to and that the players expect each other to."

Mara and Tisch spoke at a news conference at which MetLife, the Giants and Jets announced a 25-year agreement that the team's two-year-old stadium will be renamed MetLife Stadium. The change takes effect immediately, which, ironically, is just in time for the Giants' annual preseason game with the Jets on Saturday. The Giants will be the home team.

The owners discussed several other issues after stepping down from the podium used for the news conference. One of them was Plaxico Burress, the former Giants receiver who now plays for the Jets. Burress, who caught the game-winning touchdown in the Giants' Super Bowl XLII victory over New England, visited with his former team before joining the Jets. But neither Mara nor Tisch expressed bitterness toward Burress, who served a 19-month prison sentence that ended in June for accidentally shooting himself with an unlicensed gun in New York. Indeed, they wish him well.

"He's made a very good deal," Tisch said. "He's been guaranteed real money. I would like to see him have a great season. I truly would like to see him play great football for the Jets and it looks like he's off to a good start."

"I hope he does well and has a good season," Mara said. "Everything he's been through, he deserves it and his family deserves it. I'd like to have him on this team, but again we made a value judgment on that. We wish him well. He accomplished great things when he was here and he's been through a lot. I hope he does well."

Mara rejects the notion presented by some members of the media that the Giants have not done enough to improve the team since the free agency signing period commenced after the new CBA was agreed upon. One reporter asked him if he has "thought why is every other team doing something and what are we doing?"

"I wouldn't agree that every other team is doing something," Mara said. "I think certain teams spent a little more in free agency this year. A lot of teams did not. We've always felt that you don't win the Super Bowl in March or April. You have to go out there and try to re-sign your own guys at the right values. Signing the big-name free agents has not proven to lead to success in the NFL."

Mara also disagreed with criticism directed at general manager Jerry Reese after the Giants did not sign Burress or retain wide receiver Steve Smith or tight end Kevin Boss.

"I think a lot of it is unfair," Mara said. "I think people need to calm down about it a little bit. We had a plan in this off season, going in. The number one priority was to sign a new center, which we did (in former San Francisco 49er David Baas). Other priorities were to get (Ahmad) Bradshaw and (Mathias) Kiwanuka (re-signed), which we did. I'd like to have the guys back who we lost, but as I said last week, we've placed certain values on those contracts and we made a determination, if you had a number that exceeded those values by a significant amount, we were going to have to say goodbye and that's what happened."

What about the notion that the Giants have significant space under the salary cap that could be used to improve the team or sign reinforcements for the injured players.

"First off, that's not true," Mara said. "We don't have a significant amount of (room). I wish that were true, but that's not that case. The worst thing you can do when you do have some cap space is to just go and spend it. Things will always happen. If we have an opportunity to sign a player to a long-term contract, we'll do that, we'll use that space. We don't have a lot of space right now, but we have more than enough. Let's put it that way.

"There's always flexibility if you want to rework contracts. We'll do that under certain circumstances, but we're not going to create room just for the sake of creating it because when you do that, you have to pay for it in the future. I think we have a pretty solid roster. I like our team. Obviously, the injuries at cornerback are really sad. We have a very good defensive front and we have other guys on the roster now who get an opportunity to play."

Mara said he has no problem with the timing of Umenyiora's surgery. The defensive end missed the first two weeks of camp with a sore knee while making no secret of his unhappiness about his contract. He participated in three practices before swelling in his knee prompted him to have surgery. The Giants hope Umenyiora returns to the field early in the regular season. Mara sees nothing sinister in Umenyiora's decision.

"He spoke to our trainers about that," Mara said. "He spoke with, I believe, Jerry about that. He practiced for three days and the knee swelled up. That wasn't something that unilaterally he could do without our support. I think the medical decision was you can either get it fixed now and hopefully it will be strong the rest of the season or you are going to have to continue to manage it and worry about whether the swelling comes back."

Asked specifically whether he thinks the surgery had anything to do with Umenyiora's contract, Mara said, "No, I don't think so. He wants to play and he wants to play as close to 100 percent as he can. As I said, he practiced three straight days and it kept swelling up on him so he made the determination in consultation with us to have a scope. I think it was the right decision. I don't think it had anything to do with the contract."

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