Pierce: Tuck not the same player

Former teammate Antonio Pierce can't put his finger on it, but he's not seeing the same Justin Tuck. Noah K. Murray/THE STAR-LEDGER/US PRESSWIRE

As Antonio Pierce wrapped up his career in 2009, teammate Justin Tuck was developing into one of the top young defensive ends in the league.

Now, as the once-vaunted Giants pass rush has seemingly regressed, Pierce sees a noticeable difference when he analyzes the Giants' defensive captain.

"I played with Justin Tuck and have a tremendous respect for him. But he has not been the same player emotionally, mentally or his play in the last three years. It's just the facts," Pierce said on The Michael Kay Show on ESPN 98.7 FM on Friday. "He came on late last season and once Antrel Rolle and a couple of other guys said he had to pick it up, but for the most part, he's a situation, third-down, passing situation defensive end."

As the Giants pass rush has faltered this season, as the Giants are tied for 16th with just 32 sacks, Tuck's inefficiencies have been magnified as the Giants head into their final two games. After registering 28 sacks from 2007-09, Tuck has just 19 1/2 sacks the past three years, including eight the past two seasons. This year, he has just three.

Pierce played with Tuck from 2005-09, and doesn't believe Tuck's playing good football for the defending champions at the moment. Tuck has dealt with injuries over the past two years, including a shoulder injury that might sideline him this week against Baltimore, but he hasn't approached the level he played at in 2010 when he had 11 1/2 sacks.

Pierce couldn't put his finger on what exactly he believes is the difference in Tuck, but he has noticed that Tuck isn't showing the same fire he showed several years ago. Tuck did talk last season about considering retirement because of personal and family hardships.

"For me, the guy I played with, when he was there, a lot of energy, a lot of passion, brought it each and every play, each and every snap, loved to play the game," Pierce said. "I heard him mention it last year before the run [that] he didn't know where his mind was at, or if he was into the game. His comments this week, the same thing. As much as I want to give the answer, that's really a question he has to answer."

He added: "When you watch him on Sundays, you do not see the energy, you do not see the fire he used to play with. And I don't know why. I don't know if it's personal stuff going on or maybe he's physically tired."

While Tuck's play has been dissected, the team's scheme also has come under fire. Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell has led top sack units with the Giants, but he can't push the right buttons this year. Pierce wondered if the coordinator was doing enough to allow his players to be successful.

"Has Perry Fewell adapted? Has he gone above and beyond scheme-wise and trying to move these guys around, standing them up, coming up with different looks?" Pierce said. "You see it every once in a while. But not enough."