Just when you thought it was safe to pencil Osi Umenyiora into the Giants starting lineup...
When Umenyiora went to Atlanta to get another look at his knee last week, all reports were that he did not need surgery to repair the damage to his right knee. That led to his grudging return to Giants practice and reinstallation as the starting defensive end opposite Justin Tuck.
It's only been a few days since that happened, yet the whole picture looks completely different. The team announced Friday that Umenyiora will have arthroscopic knee surgery and miss the next three to four weeks while he's recovering.
The news comes as a total shock. There were no signs of any distress in the knee during practice this week and neither Umenyiora nor any Giants officials mentioned any problems at any point during the week.
Were it not for all of the drama leading up to Umenyiora's return, including a fairly widely held belief that his knee problems were actually a result of his dissatisfaction with his contract, this would be seen as just a stroke of bad luck. Now, though, it feels like something much deeper.
If Umenyiora knew he needed knee surgery, was he trying to scam the Giants or some other team into giving him a new contract before they found out he was damaged goods? While that doesn't really fit with the sequence of events, Umenyiora made it quite clear that he had no intention of playing for the Giants under his current deal so this could be part of his way of seeing that promise to fruition.
It is important to note that the Giants made a point of saying that Umenyiora decided he wanted to have the surgery, not that there was a change in the condition that led to a new diagnosis. Also worth noting is the fact that Umenyiora's camp is saying he'll be out for more than a month, which taken with his choice to have surgery seems to make his motivations pretty clear.
It also explains why he wouldn't accept incentives to the current deal, even difficult to reach ones offered by the Giants. Why shoot for the moon if you know your knee won't let you off the launching pad?
The surgery leaves the Giants in a tough spot. They want to move Mathias Kiwanuka back to linebacker to bolster their underwhelming corps at that position, but now they are thin on the defensive line and can't really expect much from Umenyiora other than melodrama even if he should be back early in the regular season.
All the more reason why the Giants should have traded him when they had the chance. Now they've got an unmarketable asset with a bad attitude, bad hip and bad knee with no motivation to play for the Giants this season.
He was very close to being someone else's problem, but now the problem is all theirs.