“Harder than I can explain,” Fewell said. “When you have a guy that has talent, that knows how to play the game, that is your captain, and he’s on the sideline, that’s very difficult.”
Tuck has missed four games because of lingering neck and groin injuries. But he may return on Sunday, when the Giants (4-2) host the Miami Dolphins (0-6).
The Giants need Tuck as they head into the brutal part of their schedule. After playing the Dolphins, the Giants travel to New England and then to San Francisco. Afterward, there are consecutive games against the Eagles, the Saints and the Packers.
“It’s hard to put an actual value on having a leader,” linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka said of Tuck. “Obviously, he’s a star player, an All-Pro. But when you get a player like that, it eases everybody’s morale. It helps everybody play a little faster, a little better.”
Tuck has played in wins over the Rams in Week 2 and the Eagles in Week 3. He recorded one and a half sacks and four tackles against the Rams in the rare show of his ability this season. He has been sidelined by a neck stinger and a sore groin. Sometimes both have bothered him. Otherwise, it has been one or the other. The hard-to-assess nature of the injuries has given opportunity for some observers — including his former teammates Michael Strahan and Antonio Pierce — to question Tuck’s toughness.
Tuck’s absence has not been glaring, thanks to the productivity of Osi Umenyiora and Jason Pierre-Paul, who have combined for 12 ½ sacks. Tuck’s return would provide flexibility for the defense.
Dolphins Coach Tony Sparano said he expected to see the Giants’ so-called Four Aces package — in which four defensive ends play at once — in a front that is built for pass rushing. The Giants used that package in past years, and at times last season.
Fewell said he would not try to reinvent the wheel if Tuck played Sunday. But he said the addition of Tuck, who is more than just a pass-rushing end, would help the Giants defend against the run.
Fewell and some defensive players said Tuck would not require much more than a few series to fit back into the schemes, needing only a little time to regain his feel for the game. But his return should take some time away from Pierre-Paul, who is having a breakout second season. Pierre-Paul is third in the N.F.L. with seven and a half sacks.
It has been a trying season for Tuck. One of his grandfathers died in August and an uncle died in September. He said the anguish he felt from those losses has been compounded by his inability to get on the field.
“Normally, when you’re having a hard time in your professional life, your personal life picks that up,” Tuck said last month. “I’m having a hard time in both right now.”
Brandon Jacobs with Men’s Fitness Magazine that he did not believe he had been used enough this season and that he did not see himself playing for the Giants after his current contract, which expires after next season. “I just can’t wait to get a true opportunity to get out there and show myself again, you know?” Jacobs said. “Next year, hopefully. This is a business and you have to look at it that way. I just want to get out there and show myself. It’s going to have to be for another team, but it is what it is.”