It would have been easy for Israel Idonije to walk away.
He was coming off year No. 11 in the National Football League, one that was filled with injuries that hampered his play. He’d accomplished everything he set out to do over a decade ago.
Well, just about everything. He hadn’t won a Super Bowl.
“ When I first came into the league, I had a list of things I wanted to accomplish,” Idonije said. “On that list, I still have to win a Super Bowl. “
And the Giants hope they can help him make that last check.
After 10 seasons with the Chicago Bears, the 33-year-old signed with the Detroit Lions last year. While he expected to make an impact on a defense that already featured the likes of Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley and Ezekiel Ansah, those plans never quite materialized.
Idonije suffered a hamstring injury in training camp, attempted to work his way back after six days and was never the same. The ensuing season was one Idonije admitted was his toughest of his 12-year career. He recorded just a half of a sack and 11 total tackles. This performance coming off three straight seasons where he averaged nearly seven quarterback takedowns.
He contemplated walking away, but just couldn’t. Had he suffered a knee injury, neck injury or anything serious, the decision to retire would have been made and no regrets would dare cross his mind. A hamstring strain? That was different. Idonije knew he could still play.
When Idonije began his pro career with the Bears, he used to take the field and run around, letting his natural athletic ability take over a game. That mentality has changed as he’s gotten olden. Now, Idonije has a “tool kit.”
When lining up across an offensive tackle, Idonije will read everything from his body language, to his stance. Depending on what he sees, he uses a different technique. All of which are stored in his “tool kit.”
“You just need to show up to work and know what you do well,” Idonije said. “I didn’t do that when I was younger.”
The moment Idonije put pen-to-paper on his contract with the Giants, he became the eldest statesman of an otherwise youthful meeting room. Cullen Jenkins, Mathias Kiwanuka and Mike Patterson are the only defensive linemen that are 30-years-old or older.
Others in the meeting room hope to emulate Idonije’s professional longevity. Already, several have started picking his mind and watching the way Idonije works.
“You’re never too old to stop learning,” Giants 21-year-old defensive end Damontre Moore said. “He’s constantly learning something and always asking questions. He’s letting everyone know that you can always be taught something and always learn a new technique.”
There’s no guarantee Idonije will be on the Giants 53-man roster when the team travels to Detroit to kickoff the season. He knows that, but he also knows the value he holds to a team.
Idonije can rush the passer and play the run on defense. He’s also capable of playing every special teams package. He also knows he can still do what he used to do so frequently in Chicago.
“I can still make plays, no question,” Idonije said. “Especially in a system like this.”