EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J.—With two-time Pro Bowl defensive end Justin Tuck battling a groin issue and a persistent neck injury, Osi Umenyiora could not have picked a better time to get back into the New York Giants' lineup.
The 29-year Umenyiora, who tied an NFL record with 10 forced fumbles last season, practiced on a limited basis for the second straight day Thursday, and it appears the two-time Pro Bowler will play for the first time this season when the Giants (2-1) play the Cardinals (1-2) in Arizona on Sunday.
"It's good to have him back," defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said. "He's got fresh legs as we say. He is quick off the ball and he is excited to be back out."
Umenyiora was getting treatment after practice on Thursday and was not available for comment. However, Tuck said Umenyiora has looked good in practice.
"As far as him being on the football field, he is just another weapon for offensive minds and quarterbacks to deal with," Tuck said, adding teams won't be able to double team all the defensive linemen and it is going to give the Giants a lot of options in bringing pressure on the quarterback.
Umenyiora's stamina won't be 100 percent to start, but just having the 9-year veteran on the field is a shot in the arm with Tuck somewhat of a question mark.
Tuck has missed practice the past two days. He does not know if he will be cleared to work Friday, but he insisted that if he boards to plane for the flight to Phoenix on Saturday, he will play in the game.
Tuck missed the opening game of the season against the Redskins because of the neck injury. He made the he trip to Washington but the team doctors would not let him play.
Tuck said the neck does not hurt as much as the shoulder injury he had a couple of seasons ago, but the fact that it is his neck is a concern.
"You go out there and play a physical sport, your neck is involved in, even if I was completely healthy, if you said anything about my neck, I was like, 'eeehhh,'" said Tuck, who said both his groin and neck have limited him this week.
Fewell is concerned about Tuck because the neck injury is limiting him. He said Tuck was playing at a "high, high level" in training camp and his game has slipped.
"I know that has to be frustrating for him," Fewell said. "It is frustrating for us because we know what Justin can do. He just has to battle his way through that."
Tuck said he has played enough football that he would be able to play even if he did not practice. He plans to manage his injuries the next three weeks and then hope a bye week will help cure the problems.
If the Giants get lucky, Tuck will be able to play, Umenyiora will return to the lineup and then New York will present a three-headed monster at defensive end with second-year pro Jason Pierre-Paul alternating with the two veterans.
Pierre-Paul is currently tied for second in the league with 4 1/2 sacks.
Fewell would not say whether he would start Umenyiora, but he said all three would get plenty of snaps.
"That's a great problem to have," Fewell said. "If Osi is the player he was last year and JPP is coming on, we'll find a way."
Fellow defensive end Dave Tollefson said Umenyiora has looked awesome.
"Osi has never been a guy to rest on his laurels," Tollefson said. "He is always trying to improve, trying to get better. He is going to help our D-line out a lot. It's nice to know if Justin can't go we can replace him with another two-time Pro Bowl defensive end."
NOTES: Giants longsnapper Zak DeOssie missed practice on Thursday because of a back problem. Tight end Travis Beckum and rookie linebacker Mark Herzlich handled the snaps in practice. DeOssie, a die-hard, and brokenhearted Boston Red Sox fan, is expected to play Sunday. ... WR Hakeem Nicks did not practice because of a swollen knee, but he insisted he will play Sunday. He hurt the knee against Washington. ... WR Brandon Stokley did not practice because of a quad he strained Wednesday.