Azeez Ojulari said he hopes he has discovered how to stay on the football field through a class in which no one else had the same goal in mind.

As his Giants teammates celebrated the franchise’s first postseason win in 10 seasons this past January, Ojulari alternated between joy and despair while coming to terms with a season ripped from the “Operation” board game.

Injuries to a hamstring, both calves and an ankle caused him to miss 10 regular-season games, and he wondered aloud in a victorious locker room why “I can’t ever finish a game” as he tended to the thigh bruise that forced his early exit from the NFC wild-card playoff game at Minnesota.

The search for an answer led him, at the recommendation of other players, to a yoga studio.

“More stretching and incorporating some yoga into my routine were the main two things that I really added,” Ojulari said. “I just wanted better for myself.”

Ojulari attended about two yoga classes per week — trying his hand both under normal conditions and in the heat and humidity required for hot yoga — during an offseason spent at home in Georgia.

He was the only professional athlete, surrounded by people exercising for other motivations.


New York Giants linebacker Azeez Ojulari (51) speaks to the media at camp, Friday, Aug. 4,.
New York Giants linebacker Azeez Ojulari speaks to the media at camp, Friday, Aug. 4.
Corey Sipkin for the NY POST

“It was more work than you think,” Ojulari told The Post. “I was the biggest person there, so I stood out and the other people were asking what I do. I think it helped me get more flexible and release tightness in little muscles that you don’t get to.”

What kind of difference could it make to the Giants to have a healthy Ojulari completing a quartet with Kayvon Thibodeaux, Dexter Lawrence and Leonard Williams?

Well, Giants radio analyst and former Pro Bowl linebacker Carl Banks recently set the bar high when he predicted Ojulari will have a “minimum of 15 sacks” on the “Bleav in Giants” podcast.

Only five players across the league reached 15 last season, and the last Giant to hit that number was Jason Pierre-Paul (16.5) in 2011.

“Man, I’m just trying to do what I can to just help the team win,” Ojulari said when asked about Banks’ prediction. “I don’t even try to look at the numbers. Just make plays happen. [Sacks] is part of the way. There are other ways — forced fumbles, tackles for loss, setting the edge [against the run]. It all works together.”

The Giants are excited about Ojulari’s efficiency.

The former second-round pick boasts 13.5 sacks in 24 career games and he averaged one sack every 25.5 pass-rushing snaps last season, which is a better ratio than all of the NFL’s top artists, according to Pro Football Focus.

“I think he averaged a sack a game,” defensive coordinator Wink Martindale quipped. “He’s a pure pass rusher. Fun to watch.”

The new mission is to sustain that level of production for a longer period.

“I feel like you always should set goals and something you want to accomplish,” Ojulari said, “because it pushes you to go harder and eliminate distractions.”

A proactive Ojulari wasn’t just about to chalk up the injuries to a bad luck.


New York Giants linebacker Kayvon Thibodeaux #5, with New York Giants linebacker Azeez Ojulari #51, during practice.
New York Giants linebacker Kayvon Thibodeaux #5, with New York Giants linebacker Azeez Ojulari #51, during practice.
Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

Ojulari stayed the same weight (240 pounds) and didn’t change anything hydration-wise.

But, in addition to adding yoga, he lightened his weightlifting workouts, switching from training for brute strength alongside offensive linemen like Andrew Thomas to joining tight ends like former Giants teammate Evan Engram at their shared facility.

“The most important goal for me this season is to play all 17 games this season and stay healthy,” Ojulari said. “[Last year] was the toughest year I’ve ever been through.

“It was the first time I ever got hit with something like that, and it was back-to-back-to-back-to-back, so it took me to a dark place. I had to keep fighting and keep my head up. I’m here now in a new season. I put it behind me.”

But the injury-prone label can follow a player throughout his career — even someone who played in all 24 games at Georgia and all 17 as a Giants rookie in 2021.

“I hate that,” Ojulari said. “It’s not my thing, but everything happens for a reason, and I pray everything goes good this year.”

— Additional reporting by Mark Cannizzaro