Justin Tuck called Barry Cofield "a great football player," and when reminded that he was nearly traded to the Saints this past offseason, Tuck said that "would have been tragic."
Great. Tragic. Very strong words from a guy who usually is more measured with his vocabulary. "Keep talking about Barry Cofield," Tuck said Thursday, "and I'll give you some more strong words."
Cofield doesn't need them. Not this year. He's playing stronger than he has at any other point in his career and even has evolved into a pretty good pass-rusher. He has two sacks this season - his career high is three in 2008 - and five quarterback hits. He's been chasing the football from sideline to sideline, disrupting plays in the backfield and even making teammates chuckle a little when they show his convulsive "Don't tase me, bro!" shimmy sack dance in meetings.
Not bad for the guy who always seems to have one foot out the door. Cofield had knee surgery after the 2008 season. Since then the Giants have brought in two high-priced free agents at his position in Rocky Bernard and Chris Canty and have used a second-round draft pick at his position on Linval Joseph. They also dangled him in the draft-day trade with the Saints that was not finalized only because Cofield could not come to an agreement with the Saints on a new contract.
The Giants kept telling Cofield that they wanted him, that he was their guy, their starter. But their actions showed a completely different agenda.
"It was difficult," Cofield said. "I relied on a lot of people in my life when times got tough. Everyone supported me. And I just looked back at the film. I looked at my resume. I started a lot of games and played a lot of snaps for this team. If I wasn't going to be the guy here, I felt comfortable that I could be the guy somewhere else. That's my approach going forward."
Going forward is something new for Cofield on the football field. He's added the pass rush to his repertoire, noting that it is Perry Fewell's system that is allowing him to make those plays on passing downs. Cofield said he is "pleasantly surprised" at the start to his season, but he also thinks the Giants are surprised by it, too.
"If they expected me to do it, they would have had me doing it," Cofield said.
Cofield, 26, didn't realize how limited he was last year until he looked back after the season ended. He said he was playing at about 75 percent after having the surgery. Now, he said, he feels like "a totally different man.''
"It's been a good time since I felt this good and pretty much felt pain-free on game day," Cofield said. "That's something that you can take for granted."
Cofield signed a one-year tender offer from the Giants as a restricted free agent during the offseason, so he'll most likely be able to test the market as an unrestricted commodity after this season. Unless, that is, the Giants sign him to a long-term deal before then. That probably would make Cofield happy. It also would make Tuck ecstatic, to borrow another of those strong words of his.
"As far as I go,'' Tuck said, "I probably feel more confident about him lining up beside me than I do any other guy."