AP GRAPHIC NFL PLAYER OF WK Print
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Friday, 05 October 2007 18:14
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 EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - When Osi Umenyiora wasn't getting any sacks earlier this season, he switched seats in the New York Giants' defensive meeting.
When reporters asked to speak to him about his six sacks and two forced fumbles Sunday night against Donovan McNabb, he balked. Thursdays are his days to talk to the media.
Call Umenyiora a creature of habit. He usually is one of the first players to arrive at Giants Stadium. He probably watches more film than any defensive lineman, and when he is on his game, he is one of the best defensive ends in football.
He also probably is the most superstitious player.
``I'm extremely superstitious,'' Umenyiora said. ``That's the way I am and the way I always have been.''
How superstitious?
Remember the six sacks against McNabb and the Eagles? Well, Umenyiora, who did not have a sack in his first three games, set the Giants record and came within a sack of tying Derrick Thomas' NFL single-game mark on a near-empty stomach.
You see, Umenyiora only eats a bagel before a game. It doesn't matter if the game starts at 1 p.m. or it's the night game. The menu doesn't change.
The night before the game, he eats tons of carbohydrates at the team hotel along with one other item.
``I have ice cream with a little cherry thing on top,'' Umenyiora said, noting the ice cream has to be vanilla. ``When they don't have it, I flip out.''
Game days have other rituals.
His ankles have to be taped by assistant athletic trainer Leigh Weiss.
``If Leigh doesn't tape me I feel crazy,'' said the 25-year-old who led the NFC with 14 1/2 sacks in 2005. ``Sometimes I get a shot before the game and there is a trainer who has to do that. Everything just has to be the way it was or else I don't feel comfortable.''
Giants spokesman Pat Hanlon said Umenyiora was referring to injections to reduce inflammation.
Teammates describe the London-born Umenyiora as an extremely hard worker who has the ability to make them laugh during tough times, such as last year when a hip problem limited him to 11 games and, of course, six sacks.
``He is very meticulous,'' defensive tackle Barry Cofield said. ``He probably watches more tape than anyone on the D-line. He really works hard at perfecting his craft and logs more study hours than the average player.''
On a good night, Umenyiora will watch three hours of videotapes. The last hour is usually spent evaluating his own performance.
When preparing for the Eagles, Umenyiora studied tape on both William Thomas and second-year tackle Winston Justice because Thomas' status was uncertain because of a knee injury. When Thomas was unable to go, Umenyiora was ready for Justice.
``It was not like I was just blowing by him,'' Umenyiora said. ``Actually, I have had games where I have beaten the offensive tackle more times than I beat him. Sometimes you make the play and sometimes you don't. For some reason everything just seemed to fall into place.''
Umenyiora has come a long way since being a 2003 second-round draft choice out of Troy, where he played with current Cowboys linebacker DeMarcus Ware.
The 6-foot-3, 261-pounder was primarily a speed rusher. Now he has the whole package that includes bull rushes, swim moves, a chop-club and, of course, his speed rush.
``You can't continually do the same thing over and over,'' Umenyiora said. ``These offensive linemen, the way they are made now, you can't run around them without giving them a little bit of a change-up.''
In getting to McNabb six times, Umenyiora used two speed rushes outside, two bull moves inside, a rush up the middle and one side move where he beat a guard on a double team.
``I knew what kind of roll he was on,'' said linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka, who also had three sacks. ``But just to see the way that it looked, the confidence with which he approached each rush and how he was executing, it really was a clinic. If young defensive ends want to study something, just put that tape on and watch him on every play.''
Washington Redskins tackle Chris Samuels said playing Umenyiora presents big problems.
``He's quick as a cat,'' said Samuels, who played against Umenyiora the previous week. ``But the thing that's good about him, he can change up and go to power. If you play with wide hands, he'll bull rush you and put his two hands in your chest and put you on top of that quarterback. He's just a great change-up rusher. He's got three or four moves he can do.''
Umenyiora gives much of the credit for his development to seven-time Pro Bowler Michael Strahan. The league's active sacks leader was his mentor. He watched how Strahan worked out in the weight room, practiced and performed in games, and he learned.
``Osi is a great player and always has been,'' Strahan said. ``He believes in himself and that is the biggest thing.''
There is also a friendly rivalry among the defensive ends, particularly Strahan and Tuck.
Tuck had the Giants' only two sacks in the first two games and Umenyiora wasn't too happy. After the second game against the Packers, Umenyiora started sitting on tackle Fred Robbins' side of the room.
``There are times during the season where I don't play as well as I feel I should play and maybe I'll tweak something a little bit,'' Umenyiora said. ``Maybe I'll change the way I tape my wrist. It's a bunch of crazy things.''
And crazy things happen, like getting six sacks.
The last one was special for Umenyiora. Not because it was No. 6. The look on Tuck's face was priceless.
``He was: 'Oh, not again,''' the fifth-year pro said. ``We're on the same team here, but it's always going to be competition when you have good pass rushers. Everyone wants to be the one getting to the quarterback.''
Umenyiora was on Sunday night, even though the videotapes disappointed him.
``I missed two sacks, believe it or not,'' he said. ``I could have had eight.''
This week against the Jets, he doubts he'll come close to six again. One thing won't change, though.
He intends to wear the same tan shirt and white shorts that he wore to last week's game, and wore everyday this week.
When you're superstitious, some things don't change.
 

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