The Giants announced they have cut MLB Antonio Pierce, after Pierce told the Newark Star-Ledger by e-mail of the move earlier on Thursday.
Pierce, 31, had been the instinctive, emotional leader of the Giants’ defense the past five years. But he suffered a season-ending neck injury and was due $4.75 million next season, which made his release a foregone conclusion.
The bulging disc caused Pierce to miss the final seven games and could threaten his ability to start next season healthy. There even has been talk that it might be a career-threatening injury.
“A.P. came right in and took the bull by the horns from day one and was very instrumental in helping the New York Giants win a lot of games and accomplishing a lot of our goals during his time here,” Giants GM Jerry Reese said. “He has been an outstanding Giant and we wish him nothing but the best for his family and future.”
Despite the concern, Pierce sent an upbeat message to the newspaper.
“I’m doing great, feeling great,” Pierce wrote in the e-mail. “Looking forward to endless possibilities. Loved every moment as a NY GIANT.”
The Giants now have a gaping hole in their defense, which allowed the third-most points in the NFL last season. The team turned to Jonathan Goff in Pierce’s place, but by no means is Goff considered a sure thing to be the long-term solution.
Prior to this season, Pierce had missed only four regular-season games with the Giants since leaving the Redskins via free agency in 2005. His strong play helped the Giants beat the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII.
“When we brought him in here we were interested in A.P. for all of the dimensions he brought to the table — his leadership qualities, his natural charismatic ability to rally the troops, he loved football, he’s a very smart football player — he took great pride in studying the tape and knowing what everybody did on defense,” Giants head coach Tom Coughlin said.
“He had the ability to communicate assignments on defense as the leader in the huddle. He was a three-time elected captain here with the New York Giants. He demonstrated great leadership. He has been an outstanding football player. Think of the screen play against Green Bay in the NFC Championship Game and the tremendous play that he made. Had he not made that play who knows where that ball would have gone?
“He has worn that Giant uniform very, very proudly.”