EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -Michael Strahan dropped thoughts of retirement and returned to the New York Giants for a 15th NFL season because his desire to play football and his love of the game were rekindled.
He also, not incidentally, still wants a Super Bowl ring.
``You know you just want to come back,'' a bearded Strahan said Tuesday after rejoining the team and practicing. ``I felt I wanted to play football, plain and simple. I wanted to enjoy it. I wanted to come here and enjoy myself, play football, enjoy my teammates and the fans and just do it - do it one more time.''
Strahan, who accumulated fines in excess of $500,000 during his holdout, left open the possibility he will play beyond the 2007 season, which begins for the Giants on Sunday night in Dallas.
Neither Strahan nor coach Tom Coughlin was certain the 35-year-old would play in Dallas. The Giants have a two-game roster exemption in case he isn't ready.
``He appears to be in good shape,'' Coughlin said. ``Of course he hasn't had any contact. But we have to work our way through all of that.''
The seven-time Pro Bowler said he had every intention of reporting to training camp at the University at Albany in late July when his desire to play suddenly waned.
``As you train and get ready leading up into the season, sometimes you wait for that feeling to come, and for me that feeling didn't come when camp was there,'' Strahan said in a 10-minute news conference in Giants Stadium.
``So instead of going there and being halfhearted into something and possibly getting hurt and not wanting to be there and leaving after initially showing up, I decided I have to do what is right for me.''
So he took the next 39 days to ponder if he wanted to return. He admitted it wasn't an easy decision.
His father, Gene, might have made it tougher by telling his son that he had accomplished everything there is to do in football.
Strahan is the NFL's active sacks leader with 132 1/2 and the holder of the single-season record for sacks, 22 1/2.
``Basically, he said to me: 'Son you did enough,''' Strahan said. ``It's hard to go against that.''
What swayed Strahan were a couple of other things on the West Coast: Giants fans who saw him pleaded with him to play, and Giants co-owner Steve Tisch paid a visit and told him it was not the way he should want to leave the game.
Talks with Warren Sapp and Marshall Faulk also helped. Both have been on Super Bowl winners.
When Strahan asked Faulk how he felt about retirement, the response was interesting.
``Great!'' Strahan recalled him saying. ``You have a ring, don't you?''
Teammates were pleased to see Strahan in the locker room again. None seemed overly concerned that he missed all of training camp while they sweated through two-a-day workouts.
Most laughed at his facial hair. Linebacker Antonio Pierce dubbed him ``The Fugitive.''
``Stray looked good,'' said defensive end Justin Tuck, who played left end in his absence and continued to work with the first team Tuesday. ``A lot of guys definitely thought he was on the beach, drinking margaritas and looking at pretty women.
``He definitely knows what it takes to play in this league.''
Although Strahan has failed to finish two of the last three seasons because of injuries, tackle Barry Cofield wasn't worried about him getting hurt again.
``If it wasn't a guy used to getting pounded by 330-pound guys, he would probably be at risk,'' Cofield said. ``For someone like Stray, who has been through so much, he'll know how to protect himself out there.''
Strahan said he wasn't worried how his teammates would receive him because he had stayed in contact with many of them throughout his holdout, which he referred to as a 'break' in his career.
``I know I appreciate the game,'' he said. ``I love the game and I love everything that comes with it. And I know when I have that appreciation that I want to be out here.''
Strahan left the locker room and walked to the practice field around 11:30 a.m. with receivers Amani Toomer and Plaxico Burress. He joked with fellow defensive end Osi Umenyiora on the field and then stretched with a group of five players that included tight end Jeremy Shockey. For the most part, he laughed a lot.
``This is where I want to be and why I am back,'' he said.

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