Giants relieved to have Strahan back on the job

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Michael Strahan dropped thoughts of retirement and returned to the New York Giants for a 15th NFL season because his desire to play football and his love of the game were rekindled.

He also, not incidentally, still wants a Super Bowl ring.

"You know you just want to come back," a bearded Strahan said Tuesday after rejoining the team and practicing. "I felt I wanted to play football, plain and simple. I wanted to enjoy it. I wanted to come here and enjoy myself, play football, enjoy my teammates and the fans and just do it -- do it one more time."

Strahan, who accumulated fines in excess of $500,000 during his holdout, left open the possibility he will play beyond the 2007 season, which begins for the Giants on Sunday night in Dallas.

Neither Strahan nor coach Tom Coughlin was certain the 35-year-old would play in Dallas. The Giants have a two-game roster exemption in case he isn't ready.

"He appears to be in good shape," Coughlin said. "Of course he hasn't had any contact. But we have to work our way through all of that."

The seven-time Pro Bowler said he had every intention of reporting to training camp at the University at Albany in late July when his desire to play suddenly waned.

"As you train and get ready leading up into the season, sometimes you wait for that feeling to come, and for me that feeling didn't come when camp was there," Strahan said in a 10-minute news conference in Giants Stadium.

"So instead of going there and being halfhearted into something and possibly getting hurt and not wanting to be there and leaving after initially showing up, I decided I have to do what is right for me."

So the NFL's active sacks leader (132½) took the next 39 days to ponder if he wanted to return.

Teammates were pleased to see Strahan in the locker room again. None seemed overly concerned that he missed all of training camp while they sweated through two-a-day workouts. Most laughed at his facial hair. Linebacker Antonio Pierce dubbed him "The Fugitive."

"Stray looked good," said defensive end Justin Tuck, who played left end in his absence and continued to work with the first team Tuesday. "A lot of guys definitely thought he was on the beach, drinking margaritas and looking at pretty women.

"He definitely knows what it takes to play in this league."

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