Tuck: Losing Osi will be 'huge burden'

Osi Umenyiora thinks Justin Tuck could be in store for a monster year now that the two aren't divvying up snaps.

But Tuck says losing Umenyiora to Atlanta in free agency "is going to be a huge burden."

"Let Osi tell it, I’m going to have the best year of my life," Tuck said at an NFL Play 60 event at P.S. 21 in Staten Island, N.Y., where he also talked about Victor Cruz's contract issue. "It’s funny. He said the year I got hurt, you made your first Pro Bowl.

"[But] you can never replace a guy like Osi," Tuck continued. "A lot of people don’t understand how much of a help he is in the locker room and as a motivator. We always have worked together to try and polish our game. Losing him is going to be a huge burden."

In 2008, Tuck had a career-high 12 sacks when Umenyiora was out with a knee injury. Tuck and the Giants would certainly like to see a repeat of that this season as Tuck prepares for his first pro season without his good friend Umenyiora on the same team.

"He’s an All-Pro player," Tuck said. "You don’t just go out to the market and pick out those. Plus, he’s been here all of his career, all of my career. You get accustomed to knowing things that don’t show up on tape, that don’t show up in the play call.

"There’s a certain chemistry you have with guys knowing the situation in games what they’re thinking," he added. "They know what you’re thinking. That takes time. You have to build that back with whoever it is who’s going to be in their place next year."

Jason Pierre-Paul and Tuck are expected to start at defensive end while Mathias Kiwanuka should step into Umenyiora's role and rotate in. Adrian Tracy, Adewale Ojomo and Justin Trattou will all compete to be the team's fourth defensive end and the Giants could draft another pass-rusher this month.

Tuck is hoping to have a big bounce-back year in the final year of his contract. He's had a total of nine sacks in the past two seasons since posting 11.5 sacks in 2010. Tuck sat down with general manager Jerry Reese this offseason and said he emerged from the meeting even more motivated to rebound this year.

"We’re on the same page," Tuck said. "We both want the same things.

"I came out of the meeting refreshed and feeling good about where we are and the rapport we have with Mr. Reese."

It certainly didn't feel good for Tuck to see one of his best friends depart. But Tuck is happy for Umenyiora and understands it will take a collective effort to replace No. 72.

"You wish Osi well, sorry it had ... hated it had to go down that way," Tuck said of Umenyiora leaving in free agency. "But as long as he’s happy about it and as long as it’s going to put him in the right place, that’s fine. We all understand the business side of things. He’ll always be a Giant in my book."

Tuck said he had no issue with Umenyiora calling the Falcons the most talented team he has ever seen despite winning two Super Bowls with the Giants.

"Osi is very, very smart," Tuck said. "We’ve talked many times about how talent doesn’t win games. It doesn’t. I know what he meant by that, and it’s definitely not a shot against the Giants.

"Up until the last few months of negotiations, he wanted to be back here," Tuck continued. "It didn’t work out and he moved on. But now he has a new home and now he has to get those guys ready and win another Super Bowl. I don’t take any offense at all."

How do you guys think Tuck and the pass rush will do without Osi this season?