When the New York Giants take the field at Candlestick Park to face the San Francisco 49ers in Sunday's NFC Championship Game, they can point to the re-emergence of their defensive line as a key factor in their postseason run.
And a big reason for the front four's dominant play throughout the Giants' four-game winning streak has been defensive end Justin Tuck, the team's defensive leader who's recovered from what seemed like a lost season of injuries and multiple deaths in his family to morph back into the player that helped the team win a Super Bowl title. In an extensive interview with The Star-Ledger this week, Tuck revealed just how tough the 2011 season was for him and how close he came to asking coach Tom Coughlin to put him on season-ending injured reserve.
"There were a lot of times I contemplated asking to be put on IR,â Tuck told The Star-Ledger. "I was pretty close a couple of times. I just felt as though I was doing more harm being on the field some weeks than me being off it.
"Sometimes it's pretty easy to fight through pain. That doesn't necessarily mean you're tough; it sometimes means you stupid."
Tuck played in only seven of the Giants' first 11 games because of injuries to his neck, groin, ankle, toe and shoulder. On the field he wasn't the same player, totaling just two sacks in those seven games. Following a blowout loss to the New Orleans Saints on Nov. 30, The Star-Ledger reported Coughlin called Tuck in for a pep talk that turned around the defensive end's season.
Since then Tuck has been back to being the Giants' defensive leader. He recorded sacks in the final two games of the regular season and had four tackles and two quarterback hits in a wild-card win over the Atlanta Falcons.
"I like the adjustments that he made and he just decided that he's not going to allow any more distractions from the standpoint of the hurts," Coughlin said. "He's made that decision and he's stuck with it."