EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. —Michael Strahan had what he wanted—a Super Bowl championship to add to a resume featuring seven Pro Bowls and two sack records. Now it was time to leave football and leave the New York Giants after 15 years in the NFL.
Four months after a stunning Super Bowl victory over the previously unbeaten New England Patriots, the 36-year-old Strahan informed Giants co-owner John Mara he was done. He will be walking away from a $4 million contract for the 2008 season.
“I told him he’s been a great Giant,” Mara said Monday. “He thanked me for everything the organization has done for him. I said, ‘I think you’ve done more for us than we can ever do for you.”’
Strahan never told his coaches or his teammates of his decision. They learned of it from reporters at practice.
“I’m just finding out about it; let me get organized,” coach Tom Coughlin said after a team workout.
Strahan, who has long said he wants a job in television, plans to hold a news conference Tuesday at Giants Stadium.
Tony Agnone, Strahan’s 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 Association Press. “Really I thought he was going to retire before last season. I’m happy he stayed around.”
Agnone added that getting the ring was probably the one thing that convinced Strahan to leave a game in which he might be the best end at playing both the run and the pass.
“He really felt he has a chance to repeat this year,” Agnone said. “So it was tough to walk away.”
Strahan’s retirement was first reported by Foxsports.com.
“It was important that my teammates knew which way I was going before they got on the field to start the work to defend our title,” Strahan told the Web site. “It’s time. I’m done.”
Strahan considered retirement before the start of last season, missing almost all of training camp while coming to a decision.
He returned days before the season, anchoring a defensive line that was instrumental in hounding New England quarterback Tom Brady in New York’s 17-14 Super Bowl victory.
“I knew it was going to (eventually) happen,” quarterback Eli Manning said. “He had a tremendous career. If that is the case, he picked a great season to go out on.”
Fellow Pro Bowl defensive end Osi Umenyiora was told of the retirement as he walked to the locker room after practice.
“I talked to Mike last week and he told me he was still unsure,” Umenyiora said. “He was really, really thinking about it, but I didn’t think he was going to do it today.”
Strahan was the Giants’ leader in the locker room. He taught the young defensive ends how to play the position. He also spent as much time working out as the youngest free agent trying to win a roster spot.
“It’s a very, very sad day for me personally,” Umenyiora said. “I loved him like a brother. You put in 15 strong years in the NFL, man that is something in this day and age is impossible to do.”
Last season, Strahan was outstanding. He started 15 of 16 games, had 46 tackles and nine sacks.
“I am very happy for him,” said receiver Amani Toomer, who played 12 seasons with Strahan. “I think he is going to find a way on his feet. I just wish him the best.”
A second-round pick in the 1993 draft, Strahan is the Giants’ career sacks leader with 141 1/2 . Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor had the previous mark of 132 1/2 , although that total does not include the 9 1/2 the linebacker had as a rookie in 1981, the year before sacks became an official statistic.
Strahan set the single-season mark of 22 1/2 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. Favre retired shortly after the Giants’ Super Bowl win.
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.
Umenyiora felt Strahan was playing so well he would return this season.
“He retired at the top of his game,” he said. “A lot of us don’t get the chance to do that.”