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Emotional Umenyiora watched Giants' celebration from afar

KAPOLEI, Hawaii -- Osi Umenyiora's eyes welled with tears as he watched television in his hotel room here on Tuesday.

This was no sad movie that had the New York Giants' defensive end feeling melancholy.

It was live coverage of the tickertape parade in Manhattan celebrating the Giants' Super Bowl crown.

Umenyiora's emotions were a mixture of joy and sorrow. He loved seeing the massive celebration of the Giants' stunning victory over the New England Patriots on Sunday. He hated the fact that he wasn't there to share the joy with teammates, friends, and thousands of fans.

Umenyiora opted to travel directly from Arizona, site of Super Bowl XLII, to the Pro Bowl, but not because he was looking to avoid the parade. Umenyiora has a fear of flying, and the six-hour flight from Phoenix to Honolulu was a better option than making the trek from Phoenix to New York, followed by a much longer journey from New York to Hawaii.

"I cried when I saw them celebrate on TV, when I saw Mike (Strahan) and the coaches," Umenyiora said. "I was so happy for them, I was so happy for me, to be a part of that organization. It was crazy. I wish I could have been there, but ..."

He woke up at 4 a.m. Hawaii time, 9 a.m. New York time, and began exchanging text messages with Strahan and other teammates. Some of the texts Umenyiora received said, "We're the best! ... We did it! ... We knocked them off! ... We stomped the Patriots!" Another linemate, Justin Tuck, called Umenyiora to describe the wild scene in Manhattan.

Ironically, Umenyiora is the lone Pro Bowl representative of the Super Bowl champs, a further reflection of the Giants' unlikely accomplishment. As much as he wishes he could be joined by some of his teammates, he has no qualms with the players who were selected to the NFC squad in voting by fellow players, coaches, and fans.

And as the Giants' only Pro Bowler, Umenyiora is the one receiving all of the congratulations from the other Pro Bowlers.

"A lot of congratulations," he said. "A lot of them wanted to see the Patriots lose. It's almost like they won. I don't know what the Patriots did to them, but everyone was happy that we won."

Neither Umenyiora nor his teammates were as surprised by the outcome as the rest of the world. In fact, a week before the game, Umenyiora told some defensive teammates, "This team can't beat us if we play the way we're supposed to play."

That meant putting the kind of pressure on Tom Brady that the Giants put on most of the quarterbacks they faced during the regular season, when they led the league with 53 sacks. The Giants did exactly that, sacking Brady five times and hitting him constantly throughout the game.

"As long as you're able to get pressure on the quarterback, you can make a Superman look ordinary," said Umenyiora, who recovered a fumble by Brady on a Tuck sack that killed a Patriots scoring opportunity just before halftime. "I couldn't imagine playing quarterback, being in his position in that situation. We were trying to kill him ... literally. We were trying to hurt him out there. I think we might have hit him twenty-something times.

"We have the greatest defensive linemen in the world. We have the greatest defensive coordinator in Steve Spagnuolo. Our DBs were playing tremendously. I mean, we had all of those things going in our favor, so I don't understand how people thought we were going to lose by fourteen points.

"That was unbelievable to me."

It was about as unbelievable as the Super Bowl champions having only one representative in the league's all-star game.

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