No one thought Giants' DE Mathias Kiwanuka would be here right now. Last October, the Giants placed their former first round selection on injured reserve with a herniated cervical disc and hoped for the best.
A neck injury such as the one Kiwi weathered the past year ended many a career. The Giants chose to be patient.
It's painful for us to go this route with Kiwi, but we've exhausted all of our options," general manager Jerry Reese said at the time. "What's most important is for him to get healthy. We're praying and hopeful that by next fall he will be back at 100 percent and playing for the New York Giants."
Kiwanuka decided against surgery. It was the right move. In February, Kiwanuka was medically cleared and the Giants, who live by the Ernie Accorsi credo that "you can't have enough pass rushers" signed the 28 year-old DE to an incentive-laden two-year deal last week.
He spoke with the media outside of TIMEX this morning...
Q: How much reservation do you have coming off this injury wanting to get out there and hit, not knowing exactly how you’re going to react?
A: I’ve been in this position before, so it’s something that’s going to be in the back of your head until you get out there and get that first hit. I know the process, I understand there’s going to be a little bit of that, but after I get out there and get a first hit it’s full steam ahead.
Q: The herniated disc in the neck can go either way. Did you ever worry that you might not get back out there again?
A: That was a very real possibility. I think a lot of that played into my decision to come back. When you’re a fifth-year player looking at the possible end of your career—it puts things in perspective. I was blessed by God and I thank God I have the opportunity to come back. I was cleared to play some time ago, so it’s been something I’ve been ready for for a few months now.
Q: Since being cleared, what have you been able to do to test it and see how it reacts?
A: I’ve been working out. Obviously, we’re not allowed to put on pads and come out here and play, but we got together as a group. I feel real confident about where it’s at. There’s no reservation in terms of how it’s going to react once I get out there.
Q: Are you looking to that first hit?
A: Oh yeah. I guess we can’t put on pads until August 4th, but I’m going to be ready.
Q: How close was it that maybe you would come back, but not with the Giants?
A: As a free agent, you have to test your options and it was definitely something that almost happened. Like I said, I’m happy to be back and looking at the opportunity that this defense has presented not only to me, but everybody out here.
Q: How much do you monitor the Osi situation and how does that impact you?
A: Unfortunately, we’re kind of used to that around here. Personally, I don’t ever want to get into discussing someone else’s financial situation because I feel like every man has to do what’s best for him. If he feels like this is the route he has to take, then I’ll come behind him 100 percent. We’d love to have him on the field, but whatever is best for him and his family is what I want for him.
Q: You think it would be more defensive end for you if he’s not here?
A: Yeah, most likely. That’s the position I came into the league playing and probably where I feel most comfortable. I feel like things are going well and regardless if he’s here or not, I’ll be able to move in and out of positions pretty smoothly.
Q: How would you describe the market for you throughout the whole process?
A: The health was definitely a concern. I think if I go out here and play for a year and I’m healthy, then the market will definitely come back. It’s not something that completely disappeared. Obviously when you have a serious injury going into free agency, it’s not a good situation.
Q: You could have been a big-time free agent. Do you allow yourself to think about that?
A: No, because the other side of that coin is I could be done playing football. The opportunity that I have right now is a really good one so I’m just happy to have the opportunity.
Q: Have you ever talked to Osi about that? In a way, you’re the example of why he’s fighting to get what he can while he can, because it could end at any second.
A: Definitely, I am the example. It’s definitely a concern to every guy that goes out there. Every time you step on the field, Coach Coughlin always says “you never know which snap is going to be your last.” It has to be in your mind when you’re out there playing hard, but when it comes down to business it is also something that you have to consider.
transcript courtesy Giants Communications Dept