EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Michael Strahan increased his work load in practice on Thursday and said that if he continues to feel good that he expects to play in the New York Giants season opener against the Dallas Cowboys.
Practicing for only the third time since ending a holdout on Monday, the seven-time Pro Bowl defensive end said that he ran every play during the defensive period and nothing was held back.
"I feel good," Strahan said after practice in a short interview. "See how I feel tomorrow. Today, I ran a lot more plays than I ran before, the last two days. If I am going to feel good, I'll be out there."
But the decision on whether Strahan will play against the Cowboys rests with Tom Coughlin and the coach has said repeatedly that he will wait until Saturday to make a decision.
"I think he is in very good running shape," Coughlin said after practice. "But the rest of it is subject to each day to review in terms of the physical part of it. And like I said, he has day-to-day learning. It is a game plan, it is new terminology. So well see."
Strahan admitted that he was confused with a few things during practice, but added that coordinator Steve Spagnuolo's new defense is not that difficult.
During his almost 40-day holdout during which he decided whether to play or retire after 14 seasons, Strahan said he occasionally went over his defensive list from minicamp and played catch up. He feels that he knows the defense well enough to play.
"We all know if I do suit up then I will have to play," said Strahan, the NFL's active sack leader with 132½. "In this business, you are one play away from playing every play. If someone ever gets hurt and we don't have the numbers, I may have to play every play, and I don't want to limit the defense because I don't know what I am doing. I am learning everything."
Middle linebacker Antonio Pierce believes Strahan is ready to go, noting that he is in great shape and his mind is ready.
"From what I see, 92 is ready to be the same 92 he was last year before he got hurt (foot) and the year before, when he went to the Pro Bowl," Pierce said. "Nothing is different."
Having an opening night game in Dallas would also be the perfect stage for Strahan to return and for the Giants to make a statement after an 8-8 record.
In many of the preseason forecasts, few expect the Giants to get back to the playoffs for a third straight year. The team lost halfback Tiki Barber to retirement and it collapsed down the stretch in 2006, winning two of its final eight regular-season games before being eliminated in the first round of the playoffs for the second straight year.
"A lot of people pick (Dallas) to win the division or possibly be a Super Bowl team," Strahan said. "I think it is a great opportunity for us to prove to everybody, especially ourselves, what we are capable of. We are going to go out there and play our best."
NOTES: ... DE Osi Umenyiora missed practice on Thursday to attend the birth of his child. ... CB Sam Madison (hamstring) practiced for the third straight day and felt good. However, he felt that R.W. McQuarters and Corey Webster deserved to start ahead of him so he would not be a distraction. ... Rookie CB Aaron Ross, the Giants first-round pick, will replace the injured David Tyree as the outside cover man (the gunner) on punts.
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press