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Giants' Umenyiora: 'No question' I want to play vs. Cowboys

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- New York Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora said he ramped up his workload on his second consecutive day of practice, the latest sign he will play in Sunday's de facto NFC East title game against the Dallas Cowboys.

Umenyiora, who still was listed as limited, missed the previous four games with a high ankle sprain.

"It's a playoff game. There's no question that I want to be out there," Umenyiora said Thursday, repeatedly deferring to Giants coach Tom Coughlin when it came to his playing status. "I would play if it's my decision."

Umenyiora said nothing to dissuade anyone from thinking he would at least have a part-time role in passing situations, adding he wouldn't consider playing if he didn't have the speed and explosiveness to be effective.

"I wouldn't be out there if I wasn't going to be myself," he said.

Umenyiora missed the first three games of the season after having arthroscopic knee surgery. He returned to start in seven of eight games, recording seven sacks and two forced fumbles before spraining his ankle during a Nov. 28 loss to the New Orleans Saints.

Umenyiora told me that surgery was discussed, but his rehabilitation would take seven or eight months. He, along with the team's medical staff, decided against surgery in the hopes he could return.

Jason Pierre-Paul has emerged as a promising star as the Giants' right defensive end in Umenyiora's absence. That prompted Umenyiora to say Pierre-Paul has earned the right to start in the spot he occupied for years -- including when he returned this season from knee surgery.

"He deserves to be the starter," Umenyiora said of Pierre-Paul. "That guy's playing at as high a level as I've seen a D-end play in a long time. I'll do whatever they need me to do."

Along with Umenyiora, wide receiver Mario Manningham (knee) practiced on a limited basis for the Giants. Tight end Jake Ballard (knee), running back Ahmad Bradshaw (foot), linebacker Mark Herzlich (ankle) and wide receiver Hakeem Nicks (hamstring) were held out of Thursday's session.

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