Justin Tuck's shoulder injury didn't just limit him on the field. It took a toll on him as a leader.
The defensive end, who played most of the season with a torn labrum and will have surgery to repair it this week, said he did not feel able to call out teammates for not giving their all when he was unable to do so himself because of his injury.
"It's tough for me to say something to a guy or, I guess, lead a guy when I see something going on when I can't lead by example," Tuck said. "I didn't feel like I had a right to kind of say some of the things that I wanted to say because I couldn't practice 100 percent. For me, personally, it is tough to jump on some other guys . . . when I am not able to do it myself."
The Giants suffered a leadership void when Antonio Pierce was put on injured reserve in November. They also lost several other key voices and attitudes on defense, many of which were cited by players in the postgame locker room Sunday afternoon.
Tuck said that after his surgery, he intends to be back at 100 percent - as a player and a leader. "I think it's needed," he said. "Not just from me. This team has been great when we had leadership by committee . . . I think we just have to do a better job as a group of leaders. That is when you start to see changes as far as how the young guys kind of approach certain situations."
Void? What void?
Tuck spoke about not being able to fill the leadership void. Jeff Feagles - yes, a punter, but a veteran of 22 NFL seasons - said leadership "was probably missing a little bit." Even Jerry Reese and John Mara noted a lack of leaders as a reason for the 8-8 disappointment.
But not everyone agrees that there was an issue. Center Shaun O'Hara -- an undisputed leader on the team -- said the leadership vacuum was mostly a media concoction.
"It's interesting; the only people I hear saying that are people who aren't in this locker room," he said before the comments from Reese and Mara. "I think when you're on the outside looking in, you throw everything you can against the wall and you see what sticks. I'll never believe that there's a void in leadership whether you're talking about the coaching staff, coach Coughlin or the players in this locker room. I think there was a void in execution."
WR Steve Smith said he thinks the Giants need "an attitude adjustment." He said, "We lost some toughness. I think we just weren't motivated some games." CB Terrell Thomas noted that the defense was "exposed" after the 5-0 start. "When you're winning, it covered up a lot of holes," he said. "The holes just kept resurfacing throughout the season."