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 EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -Michael Strahan is sick and tired of having his career and most cherished record tied to an alleged phantom sack of Brett Favre.
If you want to remember Favre laying down in the waning seconds of the last game of the 2001 season between the Green Bay Packers and the New York Giants to give Strahan an NFL single-season record 22 1/2 sacks, feel free, Strahan said.
``Remember it,'' Strahan said. ``But go to Canton and there is a jersey hanging there with a sign saying 22.5, and somebody is going to break that someday. Sacks, I could care less about sacks. I want to win, and if I haven't said that enough, or if I haven't played like that over my career for you to believe that, then so be it. I believe it in my heart.''
The 36-year-old Strahan did a lot of talking from his heart Thursday, just three days before he and his Giants (12-6) were to play Favre and the Packers (14-3) for the NFC title and a trip to the Super Bowl.
For the conspiracy theorists, Favre and Strahan denied that the two planned anything in 2001 so Strahan would get a sack to break Mark Gastineau's record of 22, set in 1984 with the New York Jets.
``I think I have said that numerous times that I didn't lay down,'' Favre said. ``It is not something we discussed previous or after or whatever and said, 'Hey, we have a formal pact here.' That is over and done with. What he did that year, what he continues to do, is outstanding.''
If there is one thing that unites the grizzled veterans, it's the respect they have for each other and their accomplishments.
The two aren't close friends.
If you noticed at the end of the Packers' 35-13 win over New York at Giants Stadium on Sept. 16, Strahan and Favre embraced, said a couple of words and each went their own way. They haven't spoken since.
``I respect the hell out of him as a player,'' said Strahan, who still had nine sacks this season despite missing all of training camp while mulling a potential retirement. ``The best I have ever played against, and the best probably ever in this league.''
Speaking about Favre earlier this season, Strahan said the 17-year veteran can be one of the most frustrating quarterbacks for a defense to face. The rush gets to him, he seems surrounded and somehow the ball comes out of his hand, goes to a receiver and ends up 20 yards downfield.
Other quarterbacks occasionally make the same play, but Favre does it more often and always with a smile on his face.
Even at 38, Favre moves better than most players at his position while being innovative at the same time, Strahan said.
``The thing that makes him so special and so different than everyone else is I look at the guys around him,'' Strahan said. ``If you look around him, you are not looking at a bunch of marquee players who are known in every home around the country. You are looking at a bunch of guys who believe in each other and who, most of all, believe in their quarterback, and they follow him.
``He's a winner and that's why this team is a winning,'' Strahan said of the Packers. ``Nothing more than Brett Favre doing what he has done for the last 17 years.''
For the Giants to deny Favre a third trip to the Super Bowl, Strahan knows they have to pressure him, or at least do more than in September when they sacked him once and hit him twice.
Favre expects more pressure.
The statistics from the Giants last three games support his hunch. New York has had 27 quarterback hits and four sacks combined against Tom Brady, Jeff Garcia and Tony Romo in the final week of the regular season and the first two weeks of the playoffs.
Strahan, the NFL's active sacks leader with 141 1/2, had six hits and a sack in that span.
``He is a tremendous player,'' Favre said. ``But he is going to want to get me this week - no different from any other time - and I'm going to find a way to get away from him and hopefully not allow him to be a factor.''
There is one thing that Favre and Strahan know - this may be their last shot at the Super Bowl.
``He has a ring,'' Strahan said. ``He can hang it up and say, 'I'm a Super Bowl champion at some point.' But all of us don't have that, and some of us are still pressing to get it.''
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