Giants' Strahan goes out his way, on top

June 10, 2008 11:22:51 AM PDT
Beaming the familiar gap-toothed smile that became his trademark in 15 NFL seasons, New York Giants defensive end Michael Strahan said Tuesday his decision to retire arose from a desire to leave on his own terms - though winning a Super Bowl in his final season certainly didn't hurt. "At some point you have to realize that you've done all you can do, all you need to do," he said at his farewell news conference. "It's over."

Strahan, who went to seven Pro Bowls and recorded the fifth- most sacks in NFL history ended his almost certain Hall of Fame career on Monday by informing the New York Giants that he planned to retire just four months after helping them win the Super Bowl.

Head coach Tom Coughlin called Strahan "the consummate Giant" and praised him for his attitude and work ethic.

"He did a lot for the young players," Coughlin said. "He knew how to perform, he knew how to practice, he knew how to play. It has been an honor to coach Michael Strahan."

At one point Tuesday, Strahan said he had more or less decided that 2007 would be his last season before the Giants went on their improbable run to the Super Bowl, which culminated in a last-minute, 17-14 win over the previously undefeated New England Patriots.

But a few minutes later he admitted that in the afterglow of the triumph he seriously considered coming back.

"Then reality set in, and I asked myself, 'Do I really want to be committed to working out and training?"' he said. "I said no.

"Physically, I'm fine," he said. "But it takes so much to play this game. This isn't a game where you can take a farewell tour."

In walking away, the 36-year-old defensive end is passing up the final year of a contract that would have paid him at least $4 million this season.

Tony Agnone, Strahan's agent, said the Giants offered Strahan more money after their stunning Super Bowl win in an effort to get him to play another year.

"Money was never the issue for him," Agnone told The Associated Press. "Really I thought he was going to retire before last season. I'm happy he stayed around."

Agnone added that getting a championship ring was probably the one thing that convinced Strahan to leave a game in which he might be the best end at playing both the run and the pass.

"He really felt he has a chance to repeat this year," Agnone said. "So it was tough to walk away."

Strahan told Giants co-owner John Mara on Monday morning that he was retiring, something that he had considered seriously prior to last season.

Mara said that without Strahan, the Giants wouldn't have won the Super Bowl or even made the playoffs.

Strahan said his future plans are up in the air, but that whatever he does is definitely going to be easier than football.

Strahan did not play like someone on the decline in his final season. He started 15 of 16 regular-season games last season and had 46 tackles and nine sacks.

He called the Super Bowl victory "the icing on the cake" of a career he began as an unknown second-round draft pick out of Texas Southern who idolized Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor.

"I don't think you need a ring to fulfill your career, but when you don't have one, you justify to yourself that you don't need it," Strahan said Tuesday. "Then, when you get one, you're like, 'There's no way I could have left without it."'

Strahan is the Giants' career sacks leader with 141½. Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor had the previous mark of 132½, although that total does not include the 9½ the linebacker had as a rookie in 1981, the year before sacks became an official statistic.

Strahan set the single-season mark of 22½ sacks in 2001, getting the last one in the season finale when Brett Favre mysteriously fell late in the game, and No. 92 got credit for the sack. Favre retired shortly after the Giants' Super Bowl win.

Justin Tuck is the leading candidate to move into Strahan's starting spot.

"The guy has had a great career, 15 years, a first ballot Hall of Famer," he said.

Strahan was the Giants' leader in the locker room. He taught the young defensive ends how to play the position. He also spent as much time working out as the youngest free agent trying to win a roster spot.

When the team took the field before games, Strahan was the one in the middle of the pre-game huddle urging them on.

"I knew it was going to (eventually) happen," quarterback Eli Manning said. "He had a tremendous career. If that is the case, he picked a great season to go out on."


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