A year ago, Giants defensive end Justin Tuck was preparing for the team's second Super Bowl in five seasons. The Giants' failure to reach the playoffs this season gave Tuck a more open schedule, allowing him to attend a Garden of Dreams charity event on Tuesday.
"It's tough, but you take your lumps and you learn from it," Tuck said. "I think that's going to make you hungrier next year to make sure you're not in this position again. We've had a lot of success being in the playoffs and winning a lot of big-time games in the playoffs so we definitely want to get back to that."
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Tuck was at Madison Square Garden to unveil six pieces of art by photographer George Kalinsky that will be sold to benefit the Garden of Dreams Foundation, the goal of which is "to make dreams come true for kids facing obstacles.''
Standing next to a 4-foot tall image of him in his Giants helmet, Tuck said that he will not need surgery on his left shoulder.
"I feel a lot better," he said. "That normally happens when you're not getting hit by 360-pounders."
Tuck said he is "super motivated'' after a disappointing four-sack season. He has spent the last few weeks watching tape and has started working out to prepare for what he promises will be a bounce-back season.
"That's what it's going to be for me: getting back to the Pro Bowl, All-Pro type of status that I'm accustomed to playing at," Tuck said. "I've been watching film on myself the last couple of weeks and it's just frustrating to see that I haven't played to that standard."
"They seem to be a team of destiny," Tuck said. "I'm reminded of some of our Super Bowl wins of a team getting hot."
As a Notre Dame alumnus, Tuck playfully grimaced when the Manti Te'o saga was mentioned. Tuck said he helped recruit Te'o and he stood by the young linebacker.
"I know that he's one of the nicest guys I've ever met in a football uniform so I believe him when he says he doesn't have anything to do with it," Tuck said. "I think he's embarrassed with the fact that he's just that gullible. It's just an unfortunate situation that somebody would try to take advantage of a situation like that and use a guy that has a good heart like him for whatever benefit they got out of that."