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Strahan: Super Bowl victory 'the icing on the cake'

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Beaming that gap-toothed smile that became his trademark in 15 NFL seasons, Michael Strahan said he understood it was time to go.

The New York Giants defensive end wanted to leave on his own terms, and finishing with a Super Bowl title certainly didn't hurt.

"At some point you have to realize that you've done all you can do, all you need to do," he said Tuesday at Giants Stadium at his farewell news conference. "It's over."

Strahan went to seven Pro Bowls and recorded the fifth most sacks in NFL history. On Monday, the 36-year-old star told the Giants he was retiring four months after helping them win the Super Bowl.

Coach Tom Coughlin called Strahan the "consummate Giant."

"He did a lot for the young players," Coughlin said. "He knew how to perform, he knew how to practice, he knew how to play. It has been an honor to coach Michael Strahan."

Strahan said Tuesday he had more or less decided 2007 would be his last season, and that was before the improbable run to the Super Bowl. Then came the culmination -- a last-minute, 17-14 win over the previously undefeated New England Patriots for the title.

But in the afterglow of the triumph he seriously considered coming back.

"Then reality set in, and I asked myself, 'Do I really want to be committed to working out and training?'" he said. "I said no. Physically, I'm fine. But it takes so much to play this game. This isn't a game where you can take a farewell tour."

He said his plans are unclear, but whatever he does will be easier than football.

Strahan is passing up the final year of a contract that would have paid him at least $4 million this season. Tony Agnone, his agent, said the Giants offered Strahan more money in an effort to get him to play another year.

"Money was never the issue for him," Agnone told The Associated Press. "Really, I thought he was going to retire before last season. I'm happy he stayed around."

Strahan told Giants co-owner John Mara on Monday that he was retiring, something he had considered seriously before last season. Mara said that without Strahan, the Giants wouldn't have won the Super Bowl or even made the playoffs.

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb echoed the sentiments of offensive tackles around the league.

"I'm not going to miss him," McNabb said. "There are a couple more guys over there on their line and we're waiting on their retirement, but he's a great guy who decided to leave the game."

Eagles tackle Jon Runyan went head-to-head with Strahan over the years, and the two developed a friendship off the field.

"You think about a situation where the guy exits winning a Super Bowl -- going out on top -- and if you could write a book, that's the way you'd want to end it," Runyan said.

Strahan did not play like someone in decline in his final season. He started 15 of 16 regular-season games and had 46 tackles and nine sacks.

He called the Super Bowl victory "the icing on the cake" of a career he began as an unknown second-round draft pick out of Texas Southern who idolized Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor.

"I don't think you need a ring to fulfill your career, but when you don't have one, you justify to yourself that you don't need it," Strahan said. "Then, when you get one, you're like, 'There's no way I could have left without it.'"

Strahan is the Giants' career sacks leader with 141½. Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor had the previous mark of 132½. He set the single-season NFL mark of 22½ sacks in 2001, getting the last one in the season finale when Brett Favre mysteriously fell late in the game, and No. 92 got credit for the sack.

"Michael is not only one of the great Giants of all time, but also one of the great defensive players in NFL history," said former teammate Tiki Barber, who retired a year before Strahan to pursue a broadcasting career. "It was an honor to spend my entire career as his teammate."

Justin Tuck is the leading candidate to move into Strahan's starting spot.

"The guy has had a great career, 15 years, a first ballot Hall of Famer," he said.

Strahan was the Giants' leader in the locker room. When the team took the field before games, Strahan was the one in the middle of the pre-game huddle urging everyone on.

"He had a tremendous career. ... He picked a great season to go out on," quarterback Eli Manning said.

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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