EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. —With the retirement of seven-time Pro Bowl defensive end Michael Strahan, the job of repeating as Super Bowl champions was going to be difficult for the New York Giants.
Now it might be near impossible with the news that fellow Pro Bowl defensive end Osi Umenyiora is out for the season with a knee injury.
An MRI on Sunday showed that Umenyiora tore the lateral meniscus in his left knee in a preseason game against the archrival Jets on Saturday night.
The two-time Pro Bowler will have surgery on Tuesday at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City. The recovery period is about four months.
Dr. Russell Warren, the team surgeon, never discussed a non-surgical option, coach Tom Coughlin said.
“My number one concern is about Osi,” Coughlin said in a telephone conference call on Sunday. “I did talk to him on the phone a short while ago and told him that he is in everyone’s thoughts and prayers.”
The devastating report came less than 24 hours after the team had thought it had caught a break in the wake of the second-quarter injury, which happened when Umenyiora’s foot seemed to stick to the turf as he tried to beat Jets tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson to the outside.
Umenyiora was carted off the field with what the team described as a locked knee. X-rays taken during the game revealed no ligament damage. An MRI on Sunday found the torn meniscus on the 26-year-old who led the team with 13 sacks last season.
“It was obviously the news that I did not want to hear,” Coughlin said. “But after listening to the explanation and Dr. Warren’s thoughts on it, I am convinced that this is the right procedure and the right way to go.”
The combination of the injury and Strahan’s retirement leaves the Giants very thin at defensive end.
Coughlin said the team is considering all its options, with the most obvious being enticing the 36-year-old Strahan to come out of retirement.
Strahan retired in June, ending a 15-year career highlighted by the Giants’ stunning Super Bowl victory over the unbeaten New England Patriots.
Coughlin recently talked with Strahan about his new career working on Fox’s pregame NFL show on Sundays.
“The only thing I talked with Michael about was his new challenge, moving forward in his new assignment and he was very excited about that,” Coughlin said.
Agent Tony Agnone said the Giants have not contacted him to ask about Strahan, who is out of the country on vacation.
“Obviously, he loves the Giants and obviously he is working for Fox,” Agnone said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. “Right now he is relaxing and getting ready for his Fox gig.”
Strahan missed all of training camp last season while mulling retirement. He reported to the team a little more than a week before the season opener and played well.
However, he trained while thinking about retirement last year and was in good shape.
The Giants open the season on Sept. 4 against the Washington Redskins.
Justin Tuck has replaced Strahan at left end. Replacing Umenyiora at right end will not be easy. He has had 40 1/2 sacks over the last four seasons. His team-high 13 sacks last season was highlighted by a franchise-record six against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sept. 30 at Giants Stadium.
Coughlin has three choices to replace Umenyiora. He can start either Renaldo Wynn, the veteran free agent who was signed in the offseason, or second-year pro Dave Tollefson, who played well late last season in a backup role.
The other option would be to move strongside linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka back to defensive end. He was switched to linebacker last year so the team could put its best 11 players on the field.
“I haven’t talked to any of the players or to Kiwi or anyone this afternoon and until I do that, I will just refrain from any thoughts about what might happen within our team,” Coughlin said.
Coughlin said losing a player in a preseason game is difficult.
“I think the number one thing that brings frustration, anxiety, and knots in your stomach, all the things that go along with the injury to the players which do not allow your team to function as it is presented on paper,” Coughlin said. “Those types of things are very difficult for coaches, no matter what age you are.”