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Tuesday, July 31, 2007
Strahan contacts Giants, who tell him he's welcome back

ESPN.com news services

ALBANY, N.Y. -- On the fourth day of his holdout, seven-time Pro Bowl defensive end Michael Strahan made contact with the New York Giants and was told he would be welcomed back although the team is proceeding as if he is retiring.

Coach Tom Coughlin and general manager Jerry Reese confirmed Tuesday that they had lengthy conversations with the 35-year-old Strahan late Monday afternoon and evening.

"There is no time frame for right now," Reese said Tuesday after practice at the University at Albany. "He could be here tomorrow. He could be here whenever. Who knows? I don't know if he is coming. He didn't commit to say that 'I am coming.' He didn't say: 'I wasn't coming.' "

Reese told Strahan that the Giants are moving forward as if he is not coming.

However, a senior Giants official told ESPN's Sal Paolantonio that the team believes Strahan is bluffing about retirement. The official said the team doesn't want "Tiki, the Sequel" -- non-stop, season-long speculation that Strahan is retiring. Last year, the Tiki Barber situation destroyed the team, the official said.

Neither Coughlin nor Reese gave many details of their talks with Strahan. Both felt the 14-year veteran had a lot to consider but that he needed to make a decision on retirement soon. They were happy that Strahan had at least found time to talk to them.

Coughlin has a timetable for when he wants Strahan to make a decision, but refused to share it.

Reese declined to say whether Strahan asked to renegotiate his contract, which will play him $4 million this season. However, the general manager said there are repercussions for missing training camp, an indication the Giants are continuing to fine Strahan $14,288 for each day of camp that he misses. Tuesday marked the fifth day of the holdout.

"I told him we would love for him to come back, but only if he wants to be here 100 percent and to be a great teammate like he has always been," said Reese, who did not know where Strahan was when they spoke on Monday.

Coughlin said Strahan apologized for the timing of the holdout, particularly his indecision on whether he wants to play.

The NFL's active sacks leader with 132½, Strahan has been known to be unhappy with his contract. That he was mulling retirement was not known to the team until Thursday night, when his agent informed the Giants that he would not be at camp the next day.

Coughlin told Strahan that he would not try to convince him to play, saying it was a decision No. 92 had to make by himself.

"That man has to come and play the game, and his heart being in the right place is the whole circumstance," Coughlin said. "If it is, there is no question about the quality of the player. Expectations will be very high. No one can come in and play this game with their attitude not being 100 percent about what is going to take place on the field."

Players with the wrong attitude tend to get hurt, Coughlin said. Strahan missed most of the second half of last season with a foot injury.

The coach also made it clear that he did not want to spend a second straight season with a retirement hanging over his head.

Tiki Barber, the Giants all-time leading rusher, hinted about retiring in training camp last season and it was a distraction all year. Barber announced halfway through the season that he would be retiring.

"Teams and franchises and people in positions of responsibility have to make decisions and move on and do what is best for your team," Coughlin said. "We'll do that. We'll do that."

With Strahan's status uncertain, the Giants plan to give Simeon Rice a physical on Wednesday. The No. 2 active sacks leader behind Strahan, Rice was released by Tampa Bay last week after failing a physical because of a shoulder injury.

The better option would be for Strahan to return to left end, where he is considered among the top pass-run defenders in the league.

"The most impressive thing about Michael for me is that he always came out like a kid," Coughlin said. "He practiced like a young kid. And if came back with that frame of mind and that love of the game, then naturally he will be a big part of our team."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.