EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Mathias Kiwanuka has been the starter at defensive end opposite Justin Tuck so far this offseason and he plans on it remaining the same come training camp in August.
A day after Osi Umenyiora reiterated he wants to start and that the best players must start this season, Kiwanuka said he is focused on starting.
“Number one is winning games,” Kiwanuka said after the morning practice. “Number two is staying in the lineup. There is no doubt that is where I belong. I’m focused and I’m ready and feel like I’m capable to fill that role and after that it is just play football and let everything take care of itself.”
Kiwanuka has a lot to sort out. Besides fighting off Umenyiora, the fifth-year defensive end is entering the last year of his contract. He is looking for a new deal which is complicated by the matter that there may not be a new collective bargaining agreement.
This season could be one without a salary cap without a CBA extension. If it is an uncapped season, contract extensions can only increase a yearly base salary by no higher than 30 percent of what a player made the year before.
As a former first-round pick, Kiwanuka is ready to prove he's worth a big contract. He has the pedigree and has shown his versatility after moving to linebacker and moving back to defensive end in the past. But as Umenyiora reminded reporters on Tuesday, he has been to Hawaii for the Pro Bowl – twice.
“I’ve been to Hawaii,” Kiwanuka said with a smile. “It’s pretty nice. There is always going to be competition regardless of what you have done in years past or how you came into this league. There is competition at every position.”
Kiwanuka said he and Umenyiora can maintain a friendly competition in camp and that things will not get ugly. Umenyiora said he will do whatever the team asks of him and is cognizant that his mood has an impact on the team. But Umenyiora did intimate there could be problems if he feels he proves he is the best player and is not the starter after camp.
“Everybody has to win a job and keep a job,” Kiwanuka said. “Once I get it, I have to keep it. (The Giants) always say we are going to get our best players on the field regardless of the situation and I really believe they really feel that way.”
Tuck watched the afternoon practice and appeared to be walking around gingerly. Head coach Tom Coughlin was not available to the media after practice to talk about Tuck.
RB Ahmad Bradshaw also did not practice. He sat out both sessions as he continues to come back from offseason surgeries on his feet and an ankle.
CB Corey Webster (finger) and WR Hakeem Nicks (toe) did practice in the afternoon session. Webster jammed his finger in the morning practice. Nicks watched the morning session as a precaution.
DT Jay Alford (knee), S Kenny Phillips (knee) and TE Kevin Boss (ankle) all watched practice as they continue to take it easy to be ready for training camp in August.
RUSH IS ON
The Giants continue to tinker with their defensive fronts. During several snaps on Wednesday, the Giants lined up four defensive ends with Tuck and Kiwanuka at defensive ends and rookie Jason Pierre-Paul and Umenyiora inside.
Pierre-Paul said he played some nose tackle while Umenyiora stood up and moved around while sinking back into coverage at times. The rookie said he played inside some at South Florida last season.
The Giants are clearly trying to find ways to use all their pass rushers like they did when they had Michael Strahan.
DOWN WITH JPP
Pierre-Paul has drawn raves from fellow defensive ends. Umenyiora said the rookie has a bright future. Kiwanuka was the latest to praise the Giants’ 15th overall pick in this year’s draft.
“He is a phenomenal athlete,” Kiwanuka said. “The best is yet to come. He has a lot of untapped potential. He can do a lot of things on the field that a lot of guys can’t do. Just the way he rushes, his speed, his athletic ability, jumping-wise, being able to change direction, he will fit in very well.”
Pierre-Paul also talked about his little scuffle with offensive lineman Rich Seubert on Tuesday at the new stadium. The rookie said no hard feelings.
“That was a big one,” Pierre-Paul said laughing. “I don’t know what happened. Football basically. Ain’t nothing new. We play football at the end.”