After contentious relationship, Osi Umenyiora says thanks to Jerry Reese

Defensive end Osi Umenyiora speaks to reporters in

Defensive end Osi Umenyiora speaks to reporters in Flowery Branch, Ga., after signing a a two-year deal with the Atlanta Falcons. (March 28, 2013) (Credit: AP)

Osi Umenyiora once called Jerry Reese a liar in an affidavit. On Thursday he thanked the Giants' general manager for helping him land with the Falcons as a free agent.

"Obviously, if it wasn't for him, I probably wouldn't even be here," Umenyiora said in his introductory news conference in Atlanta after signing a two-year deal worth a reported $8.5 million. "Obviously, the team did a comprehensive amount of research on me and my background because of some of the things that have been reported. They wanted to know what type of person I was. So obviously, they had to talk to Jerry Reese as well as my coach, and they had nothing but positive things to say."

It was an odd public acknowledgment between two parties that have had a contentious history, including six years of wrangling over a contract, a virtual holdout during training camp in 2011, and that sworn statement that surfaced during the lockout. But by the end of their professional relationship, the two apparently had mended their many conflicts. Umenyiora said he even called Reese on Wednesday morning for one final chat before finalizing his deal with the Falcons.

"Me and Jerry are cool, man," Umenyiora said. "We've always been cool. Jerry's my guy . . . I look forward to continuing my relationship with him whenever football is over."

For now, he's excited to be a Falcon and playing in the city where he has lived for the last 14 years. He noted that everyone in his family, including his son, is a Falcons fan. More so now, no doubt.

Umenyiora's playing time had diminished with the Giants in recent years as he became a part-time player and pass-rush specialist. His 75 career sacks are fourth-most in Giants history, but he's had only 15 in the last two seasons. During that time, he started 11 of the 25 regular-season games in which he played. He believes that scenario will help him with the Falcons.

"It was setting up for this situation here, a situation where I feel like I can really help this team," Umenyiora said. "I have a lot less wear and tear on my body over the last two years than I normally would have if I would have been playing all those [extra] downs. Every disappointment is a blessing and it's definitely a blessing for me and I'm thankful to come over here and help this team win."

Hightower visits. Former Cardinals and Redskins running back Tim Hightower visited the Giants Thursday. The free agent, who did not play in 2012 after being cut by the Redskins, could fit in as a third-down back for the Giants. If a deal is made, it likely won't happen until next week.

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