Yesterday at Giants 101, we talked about how Justin Tuck wants to be a more consistent player than he was last season. The two-time Pro-Bowler was a shell of his former self for the majority of the 2011 campaign, playing in only twelve games and recording only five sacks. Frankly, there were games in which Justin Tuck was a non-factor in the outcome. Injuries obviously played a major part in Tuck's decreased production. He battled shoulder, neck, and groin injuries for most of the season.
However, today, Tuck revealed why he thinks those injuries may have occurred.
"I definitely didn't work as hard as I should've last year. The lockout was going on. I took a trip to Africa. There were some things I did in the past that I didn't do last summer."
Generally, football players are creatures of habit. Most, if not all, NFL players have extremely structured and regimented workout routines that are built around that start of OTA's, mini camp, and finally the beginning of training camp. However, with the lockout last season, the offseason was radically different than those of years past.
The lack of structure, along with the ban on contact between players and their respective teams, made it a lot easier for players to skip workouts and made it harder for coaches to make sure their players would be in shape come time for training camp. Justin Tuck himself admitted that he didn't do what he was supposed to do during last offseason. Furthermore, he even began to question why his coaches kept him on the field as times.
"I wanted to be out there," Tuck said. "But I'd go two or three games and just get a half sack. I started to wonder why I was playing when there were other people who could do a better job. There's a difference between playing hurt and playing injured."
Thankfully for the Giants, Tuck eventually got his act together in time for the final six games of the season. During that time, he hauled in 18 tackles and 5.5 sacks. He was instrumental in propelling Big Blue into the playoffs and on to their fourth Super Bowl victory in franchise history.
The mantra "No harm, No foul." clearly applies to this situation. Had the Giants missed the playoffs by a game and failed to make the post season for the third consecutive year, most people would be calling for Justin Tuck's head on a platter after comments like this. Lockout or no lockout, Justin Tuck is an athlete who has a professional obligation to make sure he puts himself in the best possible position to succeed on the gridiron. Luckily for him, the team was able to keep the ship afloat long enough for him to once again become a contributor.
Hopefully, Justin Tuck has learned from last season. He understands that NFL is a brutal league, and nobody is going to bow down to him based upon personal accolades. At age 29, Justin Tuck, if healthy, should once again become a force to be reckoned with on the Giants defensive line.
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