FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — Osi Umenyiora apologized for walking
out on the New York Giants. Tedy Bruschi expressed no second thoughts
about leaving the New England Patriots.

In a week when those
defensive stalwarts coming off tough seasons grabbed the spotlight —
Umenyiora after a tiff with defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan and
Bruschi when he retired after 13 seasons — their teams meet Thursday
night in the final tuneup for the regular season.

Umenyiora had
13 sacks in 2007 then missed all last season following knee surgery. On
Monday, he left practice then said he “absolutely” regretted it.

Now he’s focusing on helping Sheridan’s defense, which hasn’t generated a strong pass rush.

“We
have played well in spurts,” said Umenyiora, who is expected to play.
“But, overall, we haven’t played that complete game as a unit and I
think however long (the starters) are out there, we need to try to
accomplish that.”

That group may have linebacker Antonio Pierce back after missing two games with a foot injury.

It
probably won’t see much of Tom Brady, if at all. The Patriots
quarterback played very little in past exhibition finales and suffered
a sore shoulder when he was tackled last Friday at Washington, but was
throwing fine in practice on Tuesday.

No. 2 quarterback Andrew
Walter, obtained just a month ago, should get most of the playing time
with undrafted rookie Brian Hoyer behind him.

“It’s a work in progress,” Walter said. “There’s a lot to be done.”

Another star quarterback, Eli Manning of the Giants, won’t have a busy night either.

“You usually get one series and, hopefully, we can go out there and play well,” he said.

Andre
Woodson and rookie Rhett Bomar should play a lot, hoping to catch on as
the No. 3 quarterback behind Manning and David Carr.

Neither will contend with Bruschi.

The
36-year-old inside linebacker announced his retirement Monday. His play
slipped last season and he was behind second-year pro Gary Guyton on
the depth chart.

Bruschi — relaxing at home, in a stadium suite,
or somewhere else — will have a chance to see how the Patriots
linebackers carry on without him.

“As good as I am going to be
without them, they are going to be just as good without me,” said
Bruschi content with his retirement decision. “They’re ready to play.”

Patriots
wide receiver Wes Welker, the NFL’s leading receiver with 223 catches
over the past two seasons, could miss his second straight game with an
undisclosed injury.

He said team policy prevents him from saying
if he would be ready for the opener Sept. 14 against Buffalo, but he
did miss practices this week.

“All I can say is I’m working hard to get back there as soon as I can,” Welker said.

That could give backups Greg Lewis and Joey Galloway more playing time Thursday.

“I don’t know,” Lewis said. “When they tell me to go (on the field), that’s when I go.”

It
also could be a big game for Giants wide receiver Sinorice Moss,
drafted in the second round in 2006. He didn’t play much in last
Saturday night’s 27-25 loss to the New York Jets and appears to be the
sixth man at a position where coach Tom Coughlin may keep five.

The
Giants and Patriots are matching up in the exhibition finale for the
fifth straight year, one last chance for the teams to make progress and
fringe players to gain roster spots.

“We made an improvement in
the third preseason game and we would like to continue in that
direction as a team, but, specifically, offensively,” New York center
Shaun O’Hara said.

New England will see how the defensive chemistry develops without Bruschi.

“I
can’t sit there and say, ‘Well, you two guys are going to be friends,
you are going to be the leader of these three guys, you’re going to be
the leader of this group, you guys are going to do this,'” coach Bill
Belichick said. “That’s something that a team evolves into.”


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