7-time Pro-Bowler Michael Strahan thankful for second shot at Super Bowl

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- After 15 seasons in the NFL, Michael Strahan is thankful for second chances.

In a season that began with him missing training camp while mulling retirement, Strahan is going to get another shot at a Super Bowl ring with the New York Giants.

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"I think last time we went it was that we were almost happy thinking we won the Super Bowl," Strahan said Friday in describing his feeling prior to a 34-7 loss to the Baltimore Ravens in January 2001.

"But you learn that the ultimate thing is to win it," Strahan said. "So now I am happy, but I am not overjoyed and jumping up and down and all those things. I am focused on winning, doing whatever we have to do to win, and to be honest with you, I am handling everything early."

The first thing Strahan has done is to take care of his ticket requests for the game against the New England Patriots on Feb. 3 in Glendale, Ariz.

In an open announcement to his friends, Strahan said if his friends haven't asked him for tickets yet or help getting a room in the Phoenix area they can forget about it. He also has no intention of hanging out with friends next week.

Strahan and receiver Amani Toomer are the only Giants left on the roster from the game seven years ago.

Both veterans have told teammates to ignore the hoopla, the distractions and the parties, noting those are the things to be enjoyed in the years when your team doesn't play for the championship.

"Giving that up now is worth it a million-fold if you win the game," Strahan said. "That is my message to those guys. And once it kicks off, it is just a football game. All that pressure of it being the Super Bowl -- and I love when they kick it off and all the flashing lights -- but we are still the only ones that can control what happens on the field. As long as you don't let those things get to you and you are relaxed and play football, it is just a game."

In talking about his second chance, Strahan noted that former teammate Tiki Barber, who retired after last season, recently sent him a text message congratulating him on getting back.

Barber had no regrets earlier this week about calling it quits after 10 seasons.

Strahan, who admitted he was close to retiring, said he would have gone crazy if he had left and the Giants went to the Super Bowl.

"If I quit, and we went to the Super Bowl and won, I'd be holding somebody hostage until I get a ring, after all these years," Strahan quipped.

Strahan does have some mixed emotions about the game.

One of his closest friends is Patriots veteran linebacker Junior Seau, who is also seeking his first NFL championship.

"I text him all the time throughout the entire playoffs and throughout the season and I see him in the offseason," Strahan said. "It is one of those things where I wish he gets a ring but at the same time I need mine. One of us will have to suffer."

The 36-year-old Strahan has had an outstanding season for someone who was thinking of retiring. His nine sacks were the third best on the team. He also anchored a line that limited opponents to an average of 97.7 yards rushing.

He has played even better in the postseason, recording 22 tackles and a sack in three games. He also has had six quarterback hits, seven hurries and a forced fumble.

Strahan has not decided whether he will play next season. Winning a title would make the NFL's active leader in sacks (141 1/2) think hard about his future.

"At that point I think I would probably have everything I have ever imagined in football," he said. "I have done everything individually; this is like the ultimate team goal.

"To win the Super Bowl, that would definitely cap off a career. You can look at it and go, 'I can end like (John) Elway or I can end like (Jerome) Bettis,' and all those things, which is everybody's dream, but to be honest with you, I don't know if this is my last year or not."

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved

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