Mathias Kiwanuka can admit it now: When he kept hearing his name come up in trade rumors during the offseason, it got to him.
"To say that it didn't affect me would be a lie," Kiwanuka said in the Giants' locker room as he prepared for tonight's showdown against the Cowboys in Dallas. "It's part of the business, and I've seen it with other players in past years. When it was my turn to sit through it, I had no control over it."
There were rumblings that Kiwanuka was on the block as part of a potential deal with the Browns for wide receiver Braylon Edwards. But the talk wasn't coming from the Giants; sources familiar with the team's thinking said there was never any intention to trade the former first-round defensive end.
"The reason we have jobs is because people are so interested in us," Kiwanuka said. "You don't have to like it, but you just take it as part of the game."
And who knows? Maybe the trade talk - even if unfounded - has provided a bit more motivation for the fourth-year pass rusher. Kiwanuka is part of a defensive line rotation that could turn out to be on par with the Giants' 2007 unit that keyed the team's Super Bowl run. Or maybe even better, if Kiwanuka has anything to say about it.
"My motivation is getting back to the Super Bowl and being on the field with this team when it happens," said Kiwanuka, who suffered a broken leg in November 2007 and missed the team's playoff run. "There's no other outside motivation for me. I don't play for what's said in the media. I play for what's going on on the field."
The stage doesn't get much bigger than Sunday night in a prime-time game against a Cowboys team opening Jerry Jones' brand-new $1.3-billion stadium. Kiwanuka hopes to play a pivotal role in throwing quarterback Tony Romo off his game.
"We expect to get the quarterback rattled and get him moving around and get him to do stuff he's not used to doing," Kiwanuka said. "That's our game plan every week with our pass rush."
As for Kiwanuka's future with the Giants, this much is certain: There are no plans to trade him anytime soon, even though his contract runs out after next season.
What do the Giants do with him long-term? Well, general manager Jerry Reese said he doesn't talk publicly about player contracts, but Reese's track record shows he's willing to re-sign players before their contracts are up - see: Justin Tuck, Corey Webster and Eli Manning. If Kiwanuka produces the kind of pass rush expected of him, look for him to join that exclusive group in the not-too-distant future.