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Old 10-12-2007, 07:47 PM   #10
alittlejazzbird
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Default Re: M. Strahan calls Ward & M. Harrison dirtiest players

I agree - Strahan's a good guy, though if I were his teammates, I'd take issue with his plan to never again attend training camp even though he may play a few more seasons, as he has told the New York news media. His new book sounds like it's going to be a great read:

Strahan is the ultimate Sunday warrior
Jay Glazer / FOXSports.com

The New York Giants have become everything they weren't supposed to be when this season began. Their coach Tom Coughlin now looks like his butt has cooled considerably and the hot seat has been taken out of his office.

Quarterback Eli Manning has not only answered the questions with his recent play and field command, so far he's actually earned himself a much-deserved trip to Honolulu. Can you believe it? He's gone from whipping boy to Pro Bowl possibility and is well on his way to legitimizing he's not that far off from stardom.

The defense a mere three weeks ago looked as if it would get Coughlin canned, put more pressure on Manning and send this entire team to the basement of the NFC.

But in the NFL so much can change in a mere two to three weeks.

The man who leads his team into battle each week is Pro Bowl DE Michael Strahan. Forget his low sack number ? Strahan remains the heart of that locker room. As he goes, they go. Even if his stats don't show it, and he's a favorite target of the tabloids and paparazzi in a high-profile divorce, he's the man his teammates look to on Sunday.

This week Strahan and I released a book together titled, "Inside the Helmet, Life as a Sunday Afternoon Warrior." It's not an autobiography, as Strahan himself admits he'd fall asleep reading about his upbringing. It's not a smut book, slinging mud at his ex-wife and naming names. We don't do that (although there is an absolutely hilarious joke that Ronde Barber played on Strahan when his ex made certain accusations about him in the N.Y. tabloids).

Instead, our book is a first-hand, intimate look at the life of an NFL player ? the brutality, the violence, the pain, the camaraderie, the way these guys fight together like brothers and against each other like brothers. It talks of practical jokes, the things these guys say to each other during battle, underneath piles and during TV timeouts. Strahan brings the most knowledgeable NFL fan to another level of feeling like you're on the inside.

After spending much of this off-season with Strahan, there's something I can now admit that may surprise some ? I'm stunned he's playing this year. Shocked, actually!

Strahan and I have been close for years. His first month in this league was my first month covering anything professionally. I was bartending in Brooklyn the year I met Strahan and he was a typical high draft pick who got hurt early. I wasn't exactly loved by my reporter brethren and he was just another dumb, injured rookie. We started hanging out together when nobody else really cared to and an odd player-reporter relationship blossomed into one of the most cherished friendships I'll ever have.

He'll readily admit I know him better than just about anybody in his life. We probably fight worse than most brothers related by blood and when we're wrong, we lambaste each other harder than people could ever imagine.

But as close as we are, and thinking I knew everything there was to know about this long-time Giant, there were things about him I never imagined. Quite frankly, I was shocked.

Shocked at what a mess my big buddy's body is. Shocked at what he's had to do in order to put himself in harm's way for 15 years of football Sundays. Shocked at what he has to do to get on that field on Sunday. Shocked at the mind games he's played with himself to get his body to do the things in battle he asks of it.

Despite being privy to more inside info than many in the public, this experience was eye-opening to say the least.

I did not know it takes him 15 minutes to get out of bed each morning. Every single morning he awakens to a mental checklist of sorts. Left ankle? OK. Right ankle? Not so good. Knees? Check. Hip? Check! Lower baaaaa?.damn! Right shoulder? Lousy, gonna have to shoot that today. And it goes on and on.

I also didn't know that when Strahan is alone he can't wear shoes with laces because on most mornings he's unable to bend to tie them. A few vertebrae in his lower back are completely shot. He writes that there's nothing more humiliating in this world than to be 30 years old, sitting at the end of a bed and trying unsuccessfully to put on a sock. He'd sit there and try and try and try and never even get close. That was when he was 30! In the five years since he's lost even more. His body is a road map of pain, the effects of Sunday brutality and violence. But unfortunately the pain isn't confined to Sunday. Those games may end Sunday afternoon but the pain lasts forever.

One day while I was typing, I was startled when Strahan gave a yelp followed by a few expletives. I turned to see that one of his fingers had actually dislocated while text-messaging somebody. His fingers are grotesque, mangled and will forever pop in and out doing mundane things. He'll have a lifetime of dislocations while doing something as second-nature as biting his nails.

It's not just Strahan, of course. All NFL players ask their bodies to do things on Sundays for our viewing pleasure and get paid handsomely as a result. Now more than ever I understand why players try to get so much money while they can.

A few years ago Strahan started shooting his shoulders with Lidocaine, a numbing agent that he hoped would alleviate the pain. It started with one day of pain shots, followed by two a week his next year, followed by three a week his next year and so on. There are shots, pills, whatever it takes to get him through another Sunday. That, too, I didn't know. (I also came to learn during our writing that teams in the NFL bring in people to take blood from these players, testing their liver and kidneys to protect them from the negative effects these shots can sometimes cause.) Like the rest of the world, I see the affable side of Strahan and many times the angry side. But now I understand the anger. The constant pain and discomfort would cause me to lash out at times too.

One of the great things about doing a book with a guy like Strahan is the fact that while all players know what they have to go through for Sunday glory, the NFL's single-season sack holder has a fantastic way of expressing the deepest, darkest thoughts of an NFL player.

When it comes to this pain and the injuries and problems he'll face in the coming years, Strahan delves deep. He admits that a few years ago he began playing games in his own mind, convincing himself that modern medicine will eventually catch up. Strahan says he had to put his mind in the frame that five years or so after he's done science will come up with something that will allow him to live a normal existence. It's a deal he's made with his body ? keep giving and I promise help will be on the way. Now that his career is winding down, he's as hopeful as ever, but within the past year that brazen exterior has cracked and he knows that's not much of a real possibility.

That's why I'm shocked Strahan is still playing. How many deals can one guy make with his body before it smacks him in the face for being a liar?

Now, when I sit in the FOX NFL Sunday studios on the weekend and watch these afternoon warriors beat the living you-know-what out of each other, I have a newfound respect. More of a first-hand respect for what we ask these guys to do for our entertainment pleasure.

Luckily for the suddenly streaking Giants, Strahan has a few more games left to play with his mind this year. I just hope my pal gets out OK.
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