Sunday, January 01, 2006
OAKLAND, Calif. -- Michael Strahan just finished a football game, but he looked like he just stepped out of the ring after a 12-round heavyweight fight.
"Felt like it, too," Strahan said, his left eye bruised and nearly swollen shut.
The injury was the result of a fourth-quarter play when Raiders tackle Chad Slaughter made like Mo, Larry and Curly and decided to block Strahan by putting his fingers into the defensive end's face mask.
Strahan, predictably, was furious.
"It was just a punch to the face," he said. "There are other ways to block people, but he said it was an accident so I take him on his word. It's just dangerous to go for someone's head.
"That's ridiculous, actually. You can end somebody's career when you poke them in the eye -- I've seen it done. And that's what I feared more than anything."
Strahan was referring to former Giants center Brian Williams, who was poked in the eye during a training camp session -- an injury that essentially ended his career.
"Initially, it scared the heck out of me," he said. "After a while, it started to come back, and I could see, and everybody was talking about how bad it looked."
Strahan actually returned to the game, one of three star players who went down in the fourth quarter. Eli Manning and Tiki Barber both tweaked their knee, but both also returned.
"It wasn't easy, but it was good," Strahan said. "I'm glad we won. We wanted to come in here and win the division, and we did that, and now we can do some damage in the playoffs."
It was hardly a perfect effort for Strahan and the Giants defense, who gave up 325 yards to what had been a struggling Oakland offense -- and one that was missing running back LaMont Jordan.
But Strahan said he was encouraged by a goal-line stand late in the fourth quarter when the Raiders were trying to slice into the Giants nine-point lead.
The Raiders had three cracks from the 1-yard line. Three times, bruising back Zack Crockett was stopped for no gain, and on fourth down, quarterback Kerry Collins was stuffed at the goal line.
"Defensively, we have a few things to iron out, but it was good to see that goal-line stand at the end of the game," he said. "That was really big for us. That's a big confidence builder.
"This was a morale builder, a confidence builder for us," he said. "We played better than we had been at times. This is a totally new season for us, but hopefully we're ready."