- Associated Press - Friday, September 30, 2011

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) - New York Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora expects to play for the first time this season and he is coming back with the chip on his shoulder.

The two-time Pro Bowler said he felt good after practicing on Friday for the third straight day, and plans to play against the Cardinals in Arizona on Sunday if his right knee feels the same way.

The 29-year-old Umenyiora had arthroscopic surgery on the knee in mid August, causing him to miss the Giants’ first three games. While swelling in the knee slowed his return, there has been none this week.

“It’s exciting,” Umenyiora said after practice. “This is what I like to do, love to do. I will get a chance to do that, whether it’s this week or whenever it is, I am excited about that.”

When pressed about playing, Umenyiora said he feels he can play and he would expect to play if the team takes him on the trip.

The soft-spoken Umenyiora never showed any real excitement when asked about playing again, but it is obvious he feels he has something to prove after a turbulent offseason in which he criticized general manager Jerry Reese for failing to rework his contract, which will pay him $3.1 million this season.

Umenyiora felt Reese had promised to do that after the 9-year veteran shared the team lead with 11 1/2 sacks and tied an NFL record by recording 10 forced fumbles last season.

Umenyiora accused Reese of not keeping his word in a deposition filed as part of a player antitrust suit against the league, and he showed his displeasure by reporting for training camp a day late. The problem escalated after he reported and the team even gave his agents permission to try to work out a trade, before quickly reconsidering.

“I always have a chip on my shoulder, I feel like I am constantly disrespected,” Umenyiora said Friday. “I always feel like I need to prove myself. This season is no different than last season or the season before. It’s probably going to be the same way next season, something is going to happen, I’ll be disrespected again and I’ll have to go out there and have to prove myself all over again. But that’s the way it is.”

When asked if he felt the team was not respecting him, he said he felt disrespect in general.

With Umenyiora sidelined, second-year pro Jason Pierre-Paul has stepped into his starting spot and played extremely well. His 4 1/2 sacks are tied for second in the league.

Pierre-Paul believes Umenyiora will start if he is active for the game, but Umenyiora refused to directly answer when questioned if it made a difference to him whether he started.

“I’m not even go to answer that question,” Umenyiora said. “I’m going to leave that one alone.”

The question might be moot since fellow Pro Bowl defensive end Justin Tuck is nursing neck and shoulder injuries. Tuck practice for the first time this week on Friday and his status has been listed as questionable, the same status coach Tom Coughlin assigned to Umenyiora.

Fellow defensive end Dave Tollefson said Umenyiora is not going to rest on his laurels. Umenyiora agreed.

“I guess that’s the way I was raised,” Umenyiora said. “I don’t feel like I am as good as I am supposed to be. I feel like I am supposed to be a whole lot better than I am. No matter what it is that I have done I feel like I am just not where I should be. As long as I am feeling that way, I am going to keep working to get myself better.”

When asked if he was disrespecting him, Umenyiora laughed.

However, he was adamant that his displeasure over his contract was not going to be on his mind while playing.

“You think about that and you are going to play bad,” he said. “Money can’t be a motivator for you on the football field. We all like to get what we are worth, but when you are playing you can’t think: ‘I am playing for this money.’ That’s not the way I have ever been and I don’t think I will ever be that way.”

If Tuck and Umenyiora play, the Giants are going to have three dynamic pass rushers who can give the Cardinals offensive line fits.

“On paper it looks good but you never know how things (will work out),” Umenyiora said. “Ask Philly. You never know how things are going to pan out. So you can say we have three great pass rushers and we can go out there and not do anything. I don’t put too much pressure on myself. When the plays are there to be made, we’ll make them.”

NOTES: Long snapper Zac DeOssie missed his second straight practice with a sore back. Coach Tom Coughlin expects him to play. Rookie linebacker Mark Herzlich and tight end Travis Beckum are the backups. … WR Brandon Stokley is out because of a quad injury suffered in practice this week. … WRs Hakeem Nicks (knee) and Mario Manningham (concussion suffered almost two weeks ago) are probable.

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