ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) – Michael Strahan’s decision to skip the opening of Giants training camp while considering retirement after 14 seasons is a personal and business decision and not a major distraction.
That what many of his teammates said Saturday.
“A couple of players have asked me, “Where’s Strahan?” fellow defensive end Osi Umenyiora said less than an hour after the Giants held their first practice. “Well, he’s not here, that’s all I can tell you, I don’t really know where he is. But, nobody is in a panic. Everybody has a lot of issues they have to deal with. People are trying to win jobs. They can’t be too overly concerned about what Michael Strahan is doing.”
Giants management also was left guessing about the future of the seven-time Pro Bowler.
General manager Jerry Reese was still waiting to talk to the 35-year-old star, and coach Tom Coughlin was playing telephone tag with the veteran.
Strahan called the coach around 7:40 p.m. Friday, 10 minutes after the team meeting started – something Strahan had to know, having played for Coughlin for three years.
“I am not perturbed,” Coughlin said of the failure to communicate. “I was disappointed right away that he is not here. You’d like to have him here on the field, but because I have not talked to him it’s not an issue. Those things happen.”
Strahan, who lost a bitter divorce case and asked earlier this year to renegotiate a contract that will pay him $4 million this season, was not immediately available for comment.
Tony Agnone, his agent, has not returned several telephone calls by The Associated Press the past two days.
The timing of Strahan’s decision was bad for the Giants, coming less than 24 hours before players were to report to the University at Albany.
For the past seven months, the Giants planned on having the NFL’s active leader in sacks (1321/2) line up at left end. They even moved second-year pro Mathias Kiwanuka from defensive end to strongside linebacker in April to get both of them on the field.
A day into training camp, they are considering other options.
For now, Kiwanuka is still a linebacker. William Joseph, the 2003 first-round draft pick who has never lived up to expectations, is starting for Strahan.
Kiwanuka believed Strahan didn’t think about retiring until recently, adding that he waited a long time last year before deciding to leave Boston College to enter the NFL draft.
“If Michael comes back, it will be a tremendous help to this team,” Kiwanuka said. “If he doesn’t, we still have talent to go ahead and be strong.”
Moving back to defensive end would not be a problem, Kiwanuka said, adding he has to know where the defensive ends are going on every play.
“My gut feeling is ‘Yes,’ that he’ll be back to play,” Pro Bowl middle linebacker Antonio Pierce said of Strahan. “But that’s my opinion strictly.”
Veteran receiver Amani Toomer also felt Strahan would return, but he was not certain.
“I know he has a lot of offers and opportunities to do other things in life,” Toomer said. “It might just be that one day he woke up and said that was it. For me, selfishly thinking, I don’t think it is it.”
Center Shaun O’Hara said he considers retiring at each exit as he drives up the New York Thruway toward training camp.
Veteran offensive tackle Kareem McKenzie felt Strahan just needed some time to think things out.
“In this heat, he is lucky right now,” McKenzie said. “It is miserable out there.”
But I mean, I’m definitely going to miss him. You definitely have to bring your ‘A’ game; therefore, I’m definitely going to miss a 14- or 15-year guy that’s been to seven Pro Bowls. That’s going to be tough.”