Giants’ embattled D gets visitor – Michael Strahan
AP Sports Writer
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) – Coming off a deflating performance against the New Orleans Saints, the guys on the New York Giants’ defensive line received an unexpected visit.
While they were sitting in their room Wednesday reviewing the 49-point debacle against quarterback Drew Brees, NFL single-single season sacks record-holder Michael Strahan paid them a visit, saying hello to some former teammates and introducing himself to the guys came on board since he retired before the 2008 season.
Strahan didn’t deliver an emotional speech to urge his former mates to turn things around with the undefeated Green Bay Packers (11-0) coming to MetLife Stadium on Sunday. His visit was a pick-me-up to lift their spirits with the Giants (6-5) riding a three-game losing streak and in danger of missing the playoffs again.
There was nothing groundbreaking in what Strahan told the lineman. He was passionate about how they had to play, defensive end Dave Tollefson said.
“I would love to give you a story about how he came in and gave a we’re going to rally around Michael Strahan speech, but it wasn’t,” Tollefson said. “He just had some good stuff to say that was great to hear, from a guy who you just have so much respect for. He could tell me how to iron clothes and I would probably iron them how he says it. Seriously, the guy commands respect and you always give that to him.”
For the most part, Strahan talked football. He didn’t scold the lineman for being part of a unit that gave up 577 yards to the Saints, the second-highest single game total the Giants surrendered in their 87-year history, or get on them for failing to register a sack..
“It was good to hear from him. Did we need it? I hope not,” Tollefson said “We’re all professionals. I hope we didn’t need a guy to come in and lift us up. We’re all pros and we need to do our job at the highest level, regardless of who has what to say. It was good to hear from him. Anytime you see Strahan, he is just such a positive guy. He always has something good to say, and he looks good for 40, I’ll give him that.”
Mathias Kiwanuka, who was drafted as lineman and was tutored by Strahan, was with the linebackers in the next room when Strahan visited the defensive linemen. He could hear “Stray” through the walls and he knew the players were responding to him.
The last time Strahan stopped by to talk to the defense was last season after the Giants dropped consecutive games to Indianapolis and Tennessee, giving up 38 and 29 points in the setbacks.
The following week, New York faced the then undefeated Chicago Bears and they recorded an NFL record nine sacks against Jay Culter in the first half, forcing him to leave the game. The Giants won 17-3, limiting Chicago to six first downs.
“You can put it on our backs,” defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul said. “The D-line is the strong part of the defense so we just have to get it right.”
Doing that against the Packers (11-0) and Aaron Rodgers on Sunday will be asking a lot, especially with two-time Pro Bowl defensive end Osi Umenyiora expected to miss the game with an ankle injury.
“We won without Osi before,” Tollefson said.
To win again, the Giants are going to have to have a complete turnaround. The need to stop the run, find a way to cover the receivers a lot better than Monday night and get to Rodgers, which is something the line hasn’t done in recent weeks, recording only three sacks.
“It just wasn’t a good performance by us, by everybody,” said safety Kenny Phillips, who has not heard from the NFL on whether he will be fined for a high hit on tight end Jimmy Graham. “I don’t think we gave as good an effort as we should have. It was an overall bad effort by us.”
Defensive tackle Rocky Bernard said the one thing that Strahan told the linemen that hit home was about finishing.
“He just told us to keep fighting,” Bernard said.
NOTES: Rookie MLB Mark Herzlich also has an ankle injury and is wearing a boot. …WR Victor Victor has a minor hip injury. … WR Mario Manningham is dealing with a swollen knee that forced him to miss the Saints’ game. … S Antrel Rolle did not practice because of back issue and WR Hakeem Nicks was held out after reporting to work with a headache. He passed the concussion protocol. … The Giants announced that running back Alex Webster, linebackers Carl Banks and the late Brad Van Pelt, tight end Mark Bavaro and punter Dave Jennings will be inducted into the team’s Ring of Honor at halftime of Sunday’s game with the Packers. The team inducted 30 members into the ring when MetLife Stadium opened last season.