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Kiwanuka optimistic ... and why wouldn't he be?

Mathias Kiwanuka tackles Bears running back Matt Forte

Mathias Kiwanuka tackles Bears running back Matt Forte during the first half of a preseason football game. (Aug. 24, 2012) Credit: AP

Mathias Kiwanuka was optimistic about returning quickly from the groin strain he suffered on the last play of the first half last night against the Bears. And why wouldn’t he be? Kiwanuka has been on an amazing streak of good fortune that he said he expects to continue.

“I couldn’t have imagined the sequence of events from when I was on IR (in 2010) and my brother was still coming back from his injury to believe that this sequence of events would happen,” a reflective Kiwanuka told Newsday earlier this week. “It was a dream. Back then it was more than a longshot. But that’s how life is.”

Here’s what’s been included in the dream: He won a Super Bowl with the Giants in his home town of Indianapolis in February. His first child, daughter Elle, was born in March. He received a new contract from the Giants in April, extending him with the team through the 2015 season (a $21.75 million contract with $10.95 million guaranteed). And this summer he’s been growing roots at linebacker, not flip-flopping at defensive end as he has for much of his career, and has been a big part of the team’s seemingly improving run defense. He had two tackles for a loss against the Bears in the first half last night.

“There’s no question Kiwi has stepped up,” Justin Tuck said. “He’s at one position now. He’s at linebacker. He’s got the opportunity to play the whole camp there and I think it’s definitely working wonders for him … His confidence level at linebacker is soaring and he’s making plays all over the football field for us.”

That wasn’t always the case. Kiwanuka looked to be emerging as one of the team’s best defensive players in 2010 until a neck injury landed him on injured reserve and put his career in doubt. He was also still watching his brother Benedict recover from traumatic injuries suffered in a motorcycle accident in May of 2010 while the two were riding in Indianapolis. Those two incidents left Kiwanuka shaken, facing mortality both professionally and in real life.

But over the last year things have turned. Benedict is doing much better. Kiwanuka has found a home at linebacker, and with the Giants. This groin issue? No wonder he can shrug it off.

“When you’re down you’re down but when you’re up you’re up,” Kiwanuka said of the lesson he has learned in the last several years. “That’s what I’ve taken out of this. I have to enjoy it while it lasts and look to the next situation when things aren’t going so well and say ‘You know what, I’ll be back on top soon.’”

Kiwanuka also credits fatherhood with his new perspective.

“Just having a child, having someone who relies on you 100 percent, it makes you mature a little bit, it makes you grow up,” Kiwanuka said. “You’re able to come out here and focus and put things in perspective. You know that no matter what happens out here in practice or on the field, there’s a bigger purpose. To have that, it calms you down a little bit … It’s a maturity thing. You can kind of see it from guys who have been around here for a while.”

And now we’re seeing it from Kiwanuka, too.


So how did Kiwanuka injure his groin?

“I was on the ground, and somebody fell on top of me,” he said last night after the Bears game. “Legs aren’t made to go that way, so it was a ‘side swipe’ or whatever you want to call it. Shouldn’t be too serious.”

Kiwanuka actually had a similar groin issue last year, so he knows the protocol.

“Just take a couple of days off, rest it, rehab it, whatever they have scheduled,” he said. “I actually just told them to look up what they did last time with it, and go from there. I have a timetable, but I do not anticipate being more than a week, week and a half, something like that.”

That would put him right in line with the opener against the Cowboys.

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