Osi Umenyiora feels 'disrespected'

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- New York Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora, who may make his season debut on Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals, says he is motivated by constant disrespect.

"I always have a chip on my shoulder," Umenyiora said Friday. "I feel I'm constantly disrespected. I always feel the need to prove myself, and this season's no different than last season or the season before. And it's probably gonna be the same way next season. Something's going to happen and I'm gonna be disrespected again, and I'm going to have to prove myself all over again. That's just the way it is."

Umenyiora, who has missed the first three games of the season with swelling in his surgically repaired right knee, was asked by whom he felt disrespected.

"Just in general," he replied.

Asked specifically if he felt disrespected by the Giants, Umenyiora replied, "I'm not gonna say that. Just in general."

Umenyiora, 29, had hoped to land a lucrative contract extension from the Giants in the offseason, but so far, it hasn't worked out.

Last Thursday, he said he was committed to playing out this season for his teammates, coaches and fans, despite not getting what he wanted.

"Nah," Umenyiora responded when asked if he planned on using the contract situation as motivation. "If you think about that, you're gonna play bad. Money can't be a motivator for you on the actual football field. Off the field, we all like to get what we're worth, but when you're actually playing you can't be, 'Oh, I'm playing for this money or whatever,' because that's not the way I've ever been and I don't think I'll ever be that way."

Umenyiora said Friday that he "feels like he can play" Sunday and believes he'll play in Arizona if the Giants take him on the trip.

"It feels good," Umenyiora said of his knee, which was operated on in August. "There's always going to be some sort of lingering issues or whatever. But nobody who's played over a couple of years is going to be 100 percent. So we'll just take it for what it is. ... There's no swelling. It's good."

Umenyiora said he first will have to consult with team physician Dr. Russell Warren and other members of the organization's brass before being cleared to play.

The nine-year veteran doesn't know if he'll start on Sunday, assuming he plays.

"We'll see," coach Tom Coughlin said.

Second-year edge rusher Jason Pierre-Paul, who has had 4½ sacks through the first three weeks of the season, said earlier in the week that he was preparing as if Umenyiora was going to start in his place.

"I'm not even going to answer that question, man," Umenyiora replied when asked about his preference to start. "I'm going to leave that one alone."

For Umenyiora, Sunday may mark the first opportunity to prove that he indeed does deserve more money.

Umenyiora wanted a new contract after having an NFL-record 10 forced fumbles to go with 11½ sacks last season. He also said in a sworn affidavit as part of the players' lawsuit against the NFL during the lockout that general manager Jerry Reese had given him assurances of signing him to a new deal in the past.

Reese and Umenyiora clearly disagreed, and the defensive end remains frustrated with his contract, which will pay him a total of $7.1 million in base salary this season and next year.

"You just have to find exactly what it is that you are playing for, a different motivation," he said. "If I was to sit over here and be like, 'OK, I'm going to go out and play for the Giants organization,' then I might not go out there and give it my all."

Umenyiora has never rested on his laurels.

"I guess it's the way I was raised or whatever. I don't feel like I'm as good as I'm supposed to be. I feel like I'm always supposed to get better," Umenyiora said. "So as long as I keep feeling that way, I'm always gonna keep working to get myself better."

"So you feel disrespected by yourself?" he was asked.

"No question," Umenyiora said, laughing.

Mike Mazzeo is a frequent contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.