EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Osi Umenyiora, the former All-Pro defensive end and a critical component of two Super Bowl championships with the New York Giants, officially retired after signing a one-day contract with the team Wednesday.
Following a video tribute from the Giants, Umenyiora addressed the media, with team president and CEO John Mara, general manager Jerry Reese and head coach Tom Coughlin among those in attendance. Umenyiora vowed not to cry, and he didn't, instead eliciting laughter with a joke early on.
"When it was first announced that this day was gonna come, I think it was maybe about three weeks ago. Some of you might have been wondering what took so long," Umenyiora said. "I just want you guys to know that for the past three weeks, I've been in negotiations with Jerry Reese about the terms of this one-day contract. I wanted a two-day contract, but obviously Jerry wasn't going for that."
Umenyiora's contract negotiations with the Giants were contentious at times, but clearly there are no hard feelings.
"I really must thank Mr. Reese, Jerry, for everything that he did," Umenyiora said. "I know that I was a real knucklehead at times, and for him to be as professional as he was and to handle that situation the way that he did, it really showed what type of man he was, and me and him remain friends and we're gonna remain friends forever."
Umenyiora also showered praise on Coughlin, Mara and Giants chairman and executive vice president Steve Tisch, sharing stories about each man -- watching Coughlin interact with children at an event in Jacksonville, having Mara visit him in the hospital after he suffered a season-ending injury in 2008, and Tisch fighting to get one of Umenyiora's friends into a black-tie function in New York.
The Giants did not re-sign Umenyiora following the 2012 season, and he spent the past two years with the Atlanta Falcons. But it sounds like his heart remained in New York.
"There's nothing like being a New York Giant. ... Once you get the chance to go somewhere else and experience something else, than you truly realize what family is. And New York is home for me."Osi Umenyiora, on retiring as a member of the New York Giants
"When it was time for me to leave and go to Atlanta, I was excited about it," Umenyiora said. "But once I got there, I was like, 'Dang!' You miss everything. There's nothing like being a New York Giant. ... Once you get the chance to go somewhere else and experience something else, than you truly realize what family is. And New York is home for me.
"I would literally be on the plane coming back from games -- and I loved my Atlanta teammates, don't get me wrong -- but we would be watching games, we would be watching the Giants, and I would be openly cheering for the Giants on a plane full of Atlanta Falcons. And they'd be looking at me like, 'Is this guy out of his mind? What are you doing?' But I just couldn't help myself. It was that Giant in me."
A second-round draft pick out of Troy University in 2003, Umenyiora spent 10 seasons with the Giants, collecting 75 of his 85 career sacks with the team. That places him fourth on the Giants' all-time list, behind only Michael Strahan (141.5), Lawrence Taylor (132.5) and Leonard Marshall (79.5).
He's only 33 years old, and he said he feels great physically and actually got a contract offer from another NFL team Tuesday, but he turned it down.
"Once I made the decision a little while ago, I said to myself [that] I already know what it's like playing for another franchise -- and Atlanta was great, no doubt about that," Umenyiora said. "But for me, it was either I was gonna play for the Giants or I wasn't gonna play football at all. And once I became truly aware that obviously the Giants have some young players they need to develop who would play the same position that I would be playing -- and if I was there I would do nothing but stunt their growth ... Once I became aware and I understood that, I said to myself, 'Why not retire?'
"I'm not gonna be a journeyman defensive end. I don't deserve that. So I made the decision to do that, and thankfully the Giants were gracious enough to let me do this."
Now Umenyiora is off to London, where he was born, to work for the NFL. He said his new job hasn't been completely defined yet, but will involve some broadcasting and some teaching of the game, as the league continues its international push.
"I'm gonna have to go into an office every day," Umenyiora said, smiling. "I don't know how that's gonna work, but I'm excited about it."
Mara, Tisch, Reese and Coughlin spoke very highly of Umenyiora in statements released by the Giants, and Coughlin smiled widely when asked about Umenyiora in his daily news conference.
"He was fun. He was a good guy," Coughlin said. "The one thing that probably went below the surface [was] what a job he did preparing. He studied those left tackles and he knew them. He knew the guy he was going against inside and out and that was really, I thought, the key to his success -- that and the fact that he was very fast [and] very confident.
"When he stepped on the field, the guys around him knew that he was a very confident player. He was a master at his craft."