Talking the Talk

Carolina defensive ends Julius Peppers and Mike Rucker were clearly a little miffed at comments made by New York Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora on Wednesday. Umenyiora told beat reporters in New York that Peppers and Rucker are "the second-best defensive end tandem in the league."

He called himself and Michael Strahan the best.

Umenyiora's comments had already made their way around Carolina's locker room by the time Rucker and Peppers showed up in the open locker room on Thursday to meet with reporters.

At first, Peppers refused comment, but then later said of Umenyiora, "I mean, he ain't going to button up his chin strap and get in front of me, so it doesn't really matter. If he was, he wouldn't be talking like that."

Thursday, Strahan added more fuel to the fire, saying, "I know what they are thinking: 'Strahan and Umenyiora, we're better than them. We're going to show them.' (But) we are thinking the same thing about those guys."

Strahan said he likes Umenyiora's confidence.

"He's young," Strahan said. "You know what? If you don't believe that, maybe you shouldn't be here. They believe they are the best. We believe we are the best. We are not bad at all. In my opinion, we are the best because I am part of that combo."

Umenyiora does have something to back up his comments.

He led the NFC in sacks this year with 14 1/2, while Strahan was third with 11 1/2. Both are headed to the Pro Bowl.

Peppers was also voted to Honolulu for a second straight year after finishing tied for fourth in the conference in sacks, but Rucker wasn't even an honorable mention despite 7 1/2 sacks, three forced fumbles and two recoveries.

When asked who was the best defensive end tandem in the league, Rucker started to respond, then, sensing a trap, thought twice about it, smiled and backed off.

"We'll see when all of the playoffs settle down and the Super Bowl is done," Rucker said. "You have some good sets of defensive ends out there and to get where we want to go we'll have to see them. We'll see after the dust clears."

When asked if Umenyiora's comments provided any incentive, Rucker smiled and said, "We'll talk Sunday after the game."

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