The Giants haven't been called winners all that often in this briefest of NFL offseasons, but they clearly won their battle with defensive end Osi Umenyiora.
After missing two weeks of practice and the team's first preseason game in a contract snit that featured a window for him to shop himself to other teams in a trade and one of the more dubious knee injuries in recent history, Umenyiora said Sunday that he would give up his stationary bike and return to practice on Monday.
He is returning with the same exact contract that set this whole thing off and without any of the incentives that the Giants offered him as a carrot to get him back on the program.
Umenyiora explained his decision in an email to the Associated Press that made it clear that he was heading back to practice without any satisfaction and without the slightest hint of a smile on his face. In fact, he's trying to paint his return with the same shades normally reserved for martyrs who put the greater good ahead of individual gain.
"No deal has been reworked," Umenyiora wrote. "What has been offered has been unacceptable and shows they don’t really respect the fact I sacrifice my health for the franchise. I will play under my current deal because I love and respect my coaches, my teammates, the fans, and myself. Not for those incentives."
It's an interesting approach for Umenyiora to take, what with the situation being exactly the same as it was when this whole thing got underway at the end of July. It is hard to crow about playing for teammates and fans instead of money when every other message you've sent makes it clear that your sole objective is grabbing as much money as possible from your employer.
Full honesty has never been a hallmark of Umenyiora's contract campaign -- contrary to his belief, two good years out of five do not constitute outplaying the terms of a long-term deal that was front-loaded -- but this is his biggest attempt to rewrite history yet. At the risk of sounding cynical about St. Osi's turnaround, might Jason Pierre-Paul's huge preseason game have more to do with his change of heart than his undying love for teammates, fans and country?
It doesn't make your claims to fantastical sums of money look all that good when the Giants show that you can plug anyone in opposite Justin Tuck and get the same production. Of course, there's also talk that a new deal could be coming now that Umenyiora is back in camp, which would, of course, make Umenyiora's words give lie to his actions all over again.
Even if the Giants wind up giving him a little bit more money, a distinct possibility even after all of this nonsense ended exactly where it started, they still win by establishing that players who refuse to practice don't get to have their contracts reworked. That doesn't mean they get nothing but gold stars for their approach to this kerfuffle.
As of now, all they've done is kick the can a little bit down the road instead of picking it up and throwing it in the proper receptacle. The idea that there will be smooth sailing from here on out is a ludicrous one given Umenyiora's history and only a confirmed optimist would argue otherwise.
That said, this is better for the Giants than not having Umenyiora on the field while refusing to trade him and move on from the perpetual sadsack. Now they can concentrate on fixing an offense that looked Pop Warnerish on Saturday night with a defense that looks even better than it did before the weekend got underway.
The rest of us will just wait for the next set of fireworks from a situation that seems to be just as combustible as ever.