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Umenyiora says he loves Giants, but he wants bigger role in 2010

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Demoted defensive end Osi Umenyiora wants to remain with the New York Giants next season, provided there are changes in how the team uses him.

Umenyiora, a two-time Pro Bowl pick who lost his starting job after a Thanksgiving loss in Denver, insisted Wednesday that he's too good a player and makes too much money to only be a third-down pass rusher.

The seven-year veteran also blamed frustration for his comments Sunday, when he wondered whether he had played his final game with the Giants in the wake of a crushing 41-9 loss to the Carolina Panthers. He also refused to say whether he believed first-year defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan should be relieved of his duties.

"I love this team," Umenyiora said after the Giants (8-7) practiced Wednesday in preparation for their season finale against the Minnesota Vikings (11-4). "I have spent the last seven years of my life here. I have a bunch of great friends here, but this situation cannot continue the way it is. There are definitely some things that are going to be changed.

"I love this place and this organization, the front office, the coaches -- I am all in," Umenyiora added. "But I think I am too good of a player for this kind of situation."

Umenyiora, who will make about $3 million next season, said he hasn't talked to Giants coach Tom Coughlin or general manager Jerry Reese in recent days. Coughlin said Monday that Umenyiora is in the team's plans for next season.

However, Umenyiora isn't happy. He was replaced in the starting lineup by Mathias Kiwanuka after the loss to the Broncos, a game in which Umenyiora acknowledged he didn't play well against the run. He also felt slighted after seeing only limited action (14 plays) in the loss to the Panthers, a game that the Giants entered still holding playoff hopes.

The result was some serious postgame frustration, given it also was the team's last game at Giants Stadium and it meant a lot to Umenyiora.

"I am a great competitor and a man of great pride, so it's been difficult," said Umenyiora, who had a team-record six sacks against the Philadelphia Eagles in a game two years ago. "It's been rough, but I have tried to keep my mouth quiet and keep my head down and do everything that has been asked of me, and unfortunately, I just let my emotions get the best of me. I said some things that I should not have said."

This isn't the first time this season that Umenyiora has had problems. He skipped a practice just before the start of the season after getting into a tiff with Sheridan, the former linebackers coach who was elevated to coordinator after Steve Spagnuolo was hired as the St. Louis Rams' head coach. Umenyiora apologized the next day.

"I can't take no shots at Bill," Umenyiora said. "This is his first year as D-coordinator. He has done an admirable job. I hope he doesn't get fired, but whatever happens, happens. He is a good man."

Umenyiora, who leads the team with seven sacks, defended his own play this season. Despite missing all of last season with a knee injury, he insisted he was just as explosive as before the injury and that his play against the run remains good.

"I don't look at myself and see any difference in the player I was before, and I think anybody who knows about football and watches football would say the same thing," Umenyiora said.

The Giants typically have little patience for players who complain too much. Last year, Pro Bowl tight end Jeremy Shockey was traded to the New Orleans Saints after complaining in the months after the Super Bowl.

Umenyiora doesn't see himself as a malcontent, and he said he doesn't plan to complain again.

"I hope I am here," Umenyiora said. "I'd love to be here. I am definitely under contract here. So I can't really tell you I am going anywhere. It's all in their hands."

Umenyiora plans to be ready for the Vikings, in whatever role the coaches want. He also wants to end the season with a win.

"We were 5-0 and lost I don't know how many games," he said. "Everybody is on us telling us we are one of the worst teams in football, and how can we let this happen? If you don't have the ability to get up for this game and put your foot down and say, 'Enough is enough,' and play for as much pride and respect as you can, then you are in the wrong sport."

Notes: DT Chris Canty sprained his right knee during practice Wednesday and was in the locker room on crutches. ... RB Ahmad Bradshaw, WR Mario Manningham, OT Kareem McKenzie, CB Corey Webster and CB Aaron Ross didn't practice because of injuries.

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