- Ohm Youngmisuk, ESPNNewYork.com
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Michael Strahan has been a busy man between shooting commercials, doing his Fox football gig and hosting "Pros vs. Joes," but he recently found time to lend a helping hand to his former team.
When free-agent linebacker Keith Bulluck called Strahan for some advice on playing in New York last week, the former heart and soul of the Giants broke it all down for Bulluck. Not long after their conversation, Bulluck signed on to become the Giants' newest middle linebacker.
"I was just up front and honest with him about playing in New York and the coach and GM and the players and exactly what they were missing," Strahan said by telephone Wednesday.
"I know the city is going to love him and the players will love him. Seeing from afar, he was always inspirational and always played hard and one of the guys you really admire of how he handles himself on and off the field."
Bulluck signed a one-year deal, picking the Giants over the Cardinals.
"What really took it over the top was when I spoke to Strahan," said Bulluck, a New York native. "I reached out to him and, you know, he was shooting a couple commercials so it took him a couple days to get back to me. When he did, we had a nice 30-minute talk. He shot me straight.
"He didn't say, 'Go to the Giants,' or anything like that. He gave me his overview of what he thought was needed and how he felt I would help."
This is a critical season for the Giants. They must re-establish their identity after their 8-8 debacle last season, and they'll have to do so without Strahan or an Antonio Pierce-type of presence on their roster for the first time since 1993.
Strahan and Pierce were domineering, fiery leaders who were the soul of the defense. Both are retired now, and the Giants have been searching for a new leader since Pierce was released early in the offseason.
Strahan thinks Bulluck is a natural fit with New York and that the 10-year veteran brings the intangibles that made Pierce so valuable.
"More than anything, when Antonio left, it was just a whole different feel," Strahan said. "Here is a guy who has been in the league for a long time, one of the smartest and most tenacious guys I ever played with. Wasn't one of the most physically gifted guys by far but had all the intangibles and they are going to miss that.
"Keith brings the intangibles -- a great player, great leader. No knock on the young guys, but they haven't been around enough or are experienced enough to be that yet. Not to say that they can't be that, but it took me a long time to be in that role."
It hasn't taken long for Strahan to thrive in his new post-football role since retiring in 2008. He has become a household name pitching for Subway and Vaseline when he's not breaking down the NFL for Fox.
Does he miss football?
"Hell no!" said Strahan, who is hosting his second season of "Pros vs. Joes" with Jay Glazer. "Training camp is starting; you think I want to be there? I don't miss that at all. Fifteen [years], I'm good."
"I think it will be great," Strahan said of the two battling it out for the starting spot opposite Justin Tuck. "They are like brothers. They will all get the chance to play. We never looked at it like we had four starters. Whoever came in the game, we considered you a starter. You don't have to look at it from vanity reasons, 'I'm the starter.' That doesn't matter. What matters is winning."
Strahan says Umenyiora will be fine this season now that he is two years removed from missing all of 2008 after knee surgery. Umenyiora has a lingering hip issue stemming from a hip flexor injury suffered in 2006, but the defensive end will manage the pain before likely having surgery after this season. He recently traveled to Colorado to seek a second opinion before opting to delay surgery.
"He has a hip issue, and that is not easy to play with," Strahan said. "He had knee surgery and no one that has knee surgery comes back and has a great season the next season, but the year after they feel confident and don't worry about it [anymore]. A lot of people were like. 'He didn't have 16 or 20 sacks [last season],' and it is hard to get that [amount] healthy."
Strahan expects Umenyiora, who had seven sacks last season, to be fine this year no matter what happens in the competition in camp with Kiwanuka.
Like Umenyiora, the Giants might be in store for a bounce-back season. And if Bulluck has anything to do with that, the Giants can thank an old friend for helping.
Michael Strahan thinks linebacker Keith Bulluck is a natural fit for the Giants.