Giants defensive end Justin Tuck has always had respect for Tom Coughlin, the only coach he’s ever known in his seven-year NFL career. But this week, Tuck gained an even greater appreciation for Coughlin.
Prior to Saturday’s game against the Jets, Coughlin met with Tuck and spoke to him. The Giants coach has been well aware that his defensive captain hasn’t been healthy all season, but Coughlin wanted Tuck to know that he should still give it his all -- regardless of how he feels.
“When he takes the time out to talk to me like that, it means a lot to me,” Tuck said after he looked like his vintage self, recording four tackles and notching a sack in the Giants’ convincing 29-14 victory over the Jets at MetLife Stadium. “It means he cares. That did a number on me. You start thinking about a lot of stuff, your legacy and I have a 21-month-old at home and I want him to see me play this game the right way. It really struck a chord with me.”
Tuck enjoyed a Pro Bowl season in 2010, but injuries to his groin, neck, toe and ankle have prevented him from being the same player he once was. The 28-year-old has found his recent failures on the football field very difficult to accept. A few weeks ago, he even told the media, “I suck.”
But Coughlin has never been one for excuses, and with two weeks left in the season, he knew what was at stake: his team’s playoff aspirations as well as his job. So he went out of his way to make sure one of his team’s most important defensive players was going to give it 150 percent. And Tuck responded.
“He played his way and he practiced like that last week,” Coughlin said. “He didn’t miss a snap and he went hard. He prepared himself to play and he changed his outlook and demeanor. He got very positive. He decided not to be concerned with the little nicks that he had and were very bothersome to him. He decided to go the other way with them and basically ignore and that is how he played.”
Ironically, Coughlin was injured in Saturday’s loss. Running back D.J. Ware got inadvertently shoved into his left leg. Coughlin says he’s “never better” and won’t be getting an MRI.
“I already told him no toughness, no championship,” Tuck said. “He’s trying to act tough so we will see how he feels [Sunday] when it swells up.”