Justin Tuck may scoff at Antonio Pierce's implication that the New York Giants player's toughness was being questioned because he didn't take the field and "doesn't have an injury that needs surgery or is that severe," but he is shaking his head because the same type of neck injury ended Pierce's career two years ago.
On a Monday radio show, Pierce chided Tuck and running back Brandon Jacobs for sitting out Sunday's game against the Seattle Seahawks because they didn't ignore their pain and just play. Tuck has missed two games with neck and groin injuries while Jacobs is nursing a sprained MCL.
Yesterday, Tuck laughed off his friend Pierce's words. He just might be thinking that Pierce has nothing from the neck up.
"It's funny to me," said Tuck. "I wish I could reverse roles with A.P. and say what he said and see how he responds to it."
Tuck knows Pierce was a fierce competitor and played through injuries but thinks the former-Giant should concentrate on a player's on-the-field performance rather than their perceived toughness.
"Like in this case, I know I'm doing everything in my power to speed up this process of getting back on the football field," said Tuck. "So why worry about what other people might think or what other people might say about it. Because obviously they don't know."
Pierce should have a better understanding of this than anyone. His career was cut short in a 2009 game against the Arizona Cardinals. He was diagnosed with the same injury as Tuck-- a burner-- and played two more games before an MRI exam showed a bulging disk in his neck.
Pierce never had surgery and never played in an NFL game again. Now he is telling Tuck to throw caution to the wind and get back on the field?
At first, Tuck was angry at Pierce's ironic words but smoothed things over. The two men spoke by phone on Monday and came to an understanding.
"I understand how he meant it. It didn't come out the way he wanted it to, " said Tuck. It's water under the bridge."
Tuck said he is focusing more on what members of the Giants organization think than what outside observers perceive.
"All the doctors and even the coaches are telling me 'Be smart.' When you're ready to play, come back and play," Tuck said. "The good thing is regardless what other people say, I know the people in the locker room trust me and understand that I want to be on that football field. That's all that matters."