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Strahan rejoins team, practices for first time since holdout

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 he took the next 39 days to ponder if he wanted to return. He
admitted it wasn't an easy decision.

His father, Gene, might have made it tougher by telling his son
that he had accomplished everything there is to do in football.

Strahan is the NFL's active sacks leader with 132½ and the
holder of the single-season record for sacks, 22½.

"Basically, he said to me: 'Son you did enough,'" Strahan
said. "It's hard to go against that."

What swayed Strahan were a couple of other things on the West
Coast: Giants fans who saw him pleaded with him to play, and Giants
co-owner Steve Tisch paid a visit and told him it was not the way
he should want to leave the game.

Talks with Warren Sapp and Marshall Faulk also helped. Both have
been on Super Bowl winners.

When Strahan asked Faulk how he felt about retirement, the
response was interesting.

"Great!" Strahan recalled him saying. "You have a ring, don't
you?"

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."

Although Strahan has failed to finish two of the last three
seasons because of injuries, tackle Barry Cofield wasn't worried
about him getting hurt again.

"If it wasn't a guy used to getting pounded by 330-pound guys,
he would probably be at risk," Cofield said. "For someone like
Stray, who has been through so much, he'll know how to protect
himself out there."

Strahan said he wasn't worried how his teammates would receive
him because he had stayed in contact with many of them throughout
his holdout, which he referred to as a 'break' in his career.

"I know I appreciate the game," he said. "I love the game and
I love everything that comes with it. And I know when I have that
appreciation that I want to be out here."

Strahan left the locker room and walked to the practice field
around 11:30 a.m. with receivers Amani Toomer and Plaxico Burress.
He joked with fellow defensive end Osi Umenyiora on the field and
then stretched with a group of five players that included tight end
Jeremy Shockey. For the most part, he laughed a lot.

"This is where I want to be and why I am back," he said.