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 EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -In the months that followed their Super Bowl victory, guard Chris Snee didn't spend time worrying whether the New York Giants could repeat.
His concern was that they had played into February, and they were late getting back to work after the parades, the banquets and ceremonies in New York, Washington and around the country.
``We had the mentality that other teams got in three extra weeks of work, so we had to catch up,'' the son-in-law of coach Tom Coughlin said in looking back on the last six months.
It's a blue-collar mentality, but that's exactly what this team is. It starts with Coughlin and extends all the way down the roster.
No one person is bigger than the team.
That should explain why this group believes it can succeed despite the retirement of seven-time Pro Bowler Michael Strahan, the trade of disgruntled tight end Jeremy Shockey to New Orleans and the loss of Pro Bowl defensive end Osi Umenyiora to a season-ending knee injury.
Each of the three was an outstanding player and a leader in his own right.
``Regardless of whether we brought everyone back from last year's team, it's still a different team,'' Snee said. ``We're building that right now. I don't see anyone complacent or sitting on the fact we were Super Bowl champions last year.''
On the surface, Strahan seems to be the one piece that can't be replaced. He was the prototype defensive end. The league's active leader in sacks, he was just as good against the run.
He also was the Giants' undeniable leader. There wasn't a game that started without ``Stray'' getting every guy in the right frame of mind with his pre-game ``Stomp.''
Middle linebacker Antonio Pierce will inherit the role, although it's not new. He led the Giants in training camp last season when Strahan was mulling retirement.
In the wake of Strahan's decision to stay retired following Umenyiora's injury, Pierce is the guy again.
``Stray was kind of the face, but A.P. was the leader every day at training camp,'' defensive tackle Barry Cofield said. ``He has always been a vocal leader. We have plenty of veteran guys. Stray left an imprint for sure. Even without him, I am still going to envision him stomping someone out before every game.''
Pierce thinks it's foolish to say the Giants can replace Strahan, Shockey, Umenyiora and the players they lost to free agency - safety Gibril Wilson and linebackers Kawika Mitchell and Reggie Torbor.
``You have to move forward, and you can't dwell on it,'' Pierce said. ``With the predictions and the opinions, we could really care less. Those are the same people that last year told us we wouldn't do nothing.''
Pierce added the Giants have found replacements. Justin Tuck has taken over for Strahan. Mathias Kiwanuka, who was drafted an a pass rushing end, is back at that position after a year at strongside linebacker.
Wilson has become an afterthought with the development of Michael Johnson, the signing of Sammy Knight and the drafting of Kenny Phillips in the first round.
Free agent Danny Clark has taken over for Kiwanuka at strongside linebacker and Gerris Wilkinson has replaced Mitchell on the weak side. Rookie Bryan Kehl is going to get time backing up both players in coordinator Steve Spagnuolo's defense.
``I think from a mental standpoint guys are even more focused than they were last year and ready to get off to a fast start,'' Pierce said.
Since the opening of training camp, Eli Manning says the Giants have focused on improving, which is less stressful that wondering about repeating.
``We just have to work hard on that and just be consistent week in and week out,'' the Super Bowl MVP said. ``I think that has been our motivation and we know we have to do that.''
The other sign that indicates that the Giants might be able to overcome their losses is difficulty Coughlin will face on Saturday in making the cut to the 53-man roster.
It was relatively easy decision last season. This year the choices will be difficult, with cornerback Sam Madison, halfback Reuben Droughns and other veterans seemingly on the bubble.
``It is always a good sign when it is a difficult time making decisions on the 53,'' Coughlin said. ``So you always want to be in that position. You don't ever want to see a player leave. But you also want the positions to be highly competitive.''

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