Final tune-up for Pats, Giants

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Asante Samuel is back with the Patriots and preparing for the regular season. Michael Strahan remains away from the Giants and may never play again.

While their teammates wrap up the exhibition season against each other Thursday night, the two defensive stars who held out of training camp almost certainly will be on the sidelines.

Samuel, who shared the NFL lead with 10 interceptions last season, signed a one-year, $7.79 million contract on Tuesday for his fifth season with New England and has been given a roster exemption.

Strahan, a seven-time Pro Bowl player and the league's all-time sacks leader, has been mulling retirement and has missed New York's entire camp. He spoke Tuesday morning with Giants general manager Jerry Reese and a decision is expected late this week.

Justin Tuck has filled in well in place of Strahan at left end and the defensive line has played solidly in the last two games. Mathias Kiwanuka has moved from defensive line to strongside linebacker.

Samuel's return would send Randall Gay, who has been filling in, back to a role in the nickel defense.

"I've never been in a situation like that," Samuel said of missing so much practice time. "It's new for me and I'm ready for the challenge, though. Hopefully, I'll overcome it."

He could be in the starting lineup for the Patriots' season opener Sept. 9 at the New York Jets. The Giants begin the season that night at Dallas.

"I just don't think you can prepare your team for the season by just focusing it totally on your preseason opponents," New England coach Bill Belichick said. "There are going to be things that are going to come up during the year where we just want to cover it ... and then we allocate time to our preseason opponents."

Many starters play sparingly or not at all in the last exhibition game.

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