CHANDLER, Ariz. (AP) -Sitting on the beach this summer, Michael Strahan doesn't know how many times he picked up his cell phone and started to dial the New York Giants.
Five, 10, 15.
Each time, the message was going to be the same. Enough! Fourteen years of playing in the NFL had drained him. It was time to rest and start that second career, maybe acting.
Every time Strahan dialed, something told him to stop and reconsider.
``At the end of the day you sit there and think: Am I done?'' Strahan recalled Monday, shortly after the Giants arrived in Arizona for Sunday's Super Bowl against the New England Patriots.
Soon he realized that while he missed the second half of the 2006 season with a foot injury, there was more to do.
``It's not the way I wanted to finish my career,'' said Strahan, the NFL's active career sacks leader (141 1/2). ``And when you are getting text messages every day from Osi (Umenyiora) and William Joseph, and all of these guys, they make you feel a little better about yourself than you should for their own selfish reasons. Then when you come back, they treat you like dirt,''
As soon as he finishes the sentence, the 36-year-old bursts out laughing.
If there is another reason Strahan returned this year, it can be found in his laughter. He enjoys being around his teammates, whether it's practicing or lifting weights or just hanging out in the locker room.
He also enjoys the spotlight. Turn the camera off, and Strahan turns off, too.
The one place Strahan goes nonstop is the football field, even in his 15th season.
``I don't know how old he is, maybe 45 or 46, but the guy can still definitely play and I am not even just talking about what he does on the field,'' fellow defensive end Justin Tuck said. ``The experience that he shows in the locker room and being able to run things off of him has definitely benefited all of us, especially me.''
Coach Tom Coughlin can't say enough about Strahan's work ethic. He is a gym rat who pushes younger players. On the field, he is the complete defensive end.
Not only can he knock a quarterback down, he is just as effective putting down a running back.
Despite missing all of training camp while mulling retirement after a messy divorce, Strahan finished third on the team with nine sacks. He also anchored a line that limited opponents to an average of 97.7 yards rushing.
``You never know how it ends, but you can see that he had that youthful drink, that fountain of youth as they call it,'' middle linebacker Antonio Pierce said. ``He smiles a lot more. I just think he is just enjoying the game. After 15-plus years, the guy has been through a lot of wars. This is now his second Super Bowl, and I think the only thing he is focused on is finally getting that ring.''
Strahan is eager to play the Patriots again, noting the Giants (13-6) had a great chance to end New England's run at a perfect season in the final game of the regular season.
New York built a 28-16 lead in the third quarter, only to watch Tom Brady lead three touchdown drives in a 38-35 win.
``I think we have a better understanding of them,'' Strahan said. ``We had never played anybody like that. Obviously, no one has since they are an undefeated team. So now we have that opportunity and if you want it, you ask for it and you better make the most of it.''
If the Giants do, Strahan will get his ring.
In some ways that will also be heartbreaking for him. One of his closest friends is Patriots linebacker Junior Seau.
``I want him to win one, too,'' Seau said. ``But I want him to win it when I'm retired and surfing, not now. This isn't the time. We'll get jabs at each other. Obviously, he's been with New York for so long and I tip my hat off to the organization for keeping him. There was a time in his career where it was questionable.''
That was when the Giants had to decide whether to pay Strahan big bucks. They did.
All that is left for Strahan now is to help the Giants deny the Patriots a place in history.
``I'm not thinking about history,'' he said. ``Right now, we are all undefeated. There are two of us left. The only thing that matters is one game right now.''

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