Before hustling out of the team's Giants Stadium locker room for the final time Sunday afternoon, Osi Umenyiora suggested that his days as a Giant are coming to an end. But Monday, Tom Coughlin said the team has no desire to part ways with the defensive end.
"He's very much in our plans," Coughlin said. "I would tell you he's a very, very important asset to our team and leave it at that."
On Sunday, Umenyiora grumbled publicly about his playing time for the first time since he was demoted to a part-time role at the beginning of the month. "I thought I was the problem," he said of the team's poor performance against the Panthers while he spent most of the game watching from the sideline. "What did I play, five snaps?"
He also spoke about being frustrated by the reduced playing time. "Just the way everything has unfolded has been unbelievable," he said. "I never would have dreamed this in a million years."
Coughlin chalked those remarks up to frustration. The coach said Umenyiora was part of the team's leadership council meeting Monday but that the two did not speak one-on-one. That, Coughlin said, likely will happen after the season.
As for Umenyiora's playing time, Coughlin noted that he was on the field for more than the five snaps he cited - it actually was 14 - and said that was mostly due to the Panthers' dedication to running the football in base packages and two-tight end sets even on third-down situations.
"There were X amount of plays by Osi," Coughlin said. "There should have been more probably, but that's the nature of the offensive team we were playing."
Umenyiora leads the Giants with seven sacks and has led them in each of the last four years he's played. He missed the entire 2008 season after knee surgery and was a starting defensive end through the first 11 games of this season. After that he became a part-time player, mostly as a pass-rushing specialist. Mathias Kiwanuka took his starting job at defensive end.
Umenyiora has three years remaining on the six-year extension he signed with the Giants near the end of the 2005 season.
As for Umenyiora's future with the Giants, Coughlin would not comment on how he will be used if he is on the team next season.
"He's a very good football player," Coughlin said. "How all those things fit together, I'm not going to go into that right now. But he's a very, very good football player, always has been."